Can I Get A Witness?

May 8, 2010

Listening to “Someone Else’s Song” makes me want to sing and write a melody.  It makes me want to author something similarly enjoyable, but sprung from my own well.  Of late, in viewing my work, questions of my authorship have arisen.  Sometimes i by-pass or give away authorship to encompass ideas other than my own or to shine light on things that hold my attention.   These are things that are not birthed by me, rather stumbled across due to what one might consider good timing and looking.  Perhaps, i imagine i have good timing and really i should focus on my own beat, but how hard it is to ignore the rhythms being made — by others — all around!

As i catch myself thinking about these things, imagining my good fortune to be actual and the random beauty i encounter to be real, i begin to wonder how and why i need to differentiate between something that is an influence and something that is “purely” my creation. To separate the question of authorship into my own and others — outside and inside — seems very clear and very opaque at the same time.  Yes, my hands made this, i was looking at something outside of myself, but it filtered through my insides.  Yes, my hands made this, i was thinking about something inside, and this is how i chose to mediate that thought.

Getting caught thinking like this, evaluating whether something impacted my results or whether i alone impacted my results makes me cringe. How impossible it is to claim that I ALONE DID THIS.  We all aspire to be self reliant and DIY is all the rage, but we never can really get the whole process to be made by our hands alone.  Someone else makes our materials, something/one else delivers insight, light shines to present things we never saw before, we are not islands and homogeneous authenticity seems to be a dream.

My attempts to be authentic, to put something of myself out there is questionable, although it is what i am constantly striving to do.  What i mean by questionable is that how can ever one really produce something without questioning where it came from? I find things inside i want to hide,  and i filter parts of me i want to use out to a distilled form.  By no means am i censoring myself, but i am totally watching what comes out closely and removing parts that i don’t want to show.

I find most things inside are constantly touched by whats happening outside of me.  I try to claim authenticity and end up whispering uncertainly; does the water not get credit?  the light? the atmosphere of where i stood, the direction i looked, the rocks? the people i was with? When is it JUST me?  I think about someone like Forrest Bess and how he did not feel responsible for his work, how he felt he was simply a conduit.  He painted “ideograms” — visions he saw on the inside of his eyelids — and lived a solitary existence painting on an island off of Texas as a “visionary”, a supposed translator of his unconscious.  This kind of artist intrigues me as sometimes i believe i can or i want to create images similarly, but i don’t see things on the inside of my eyelids.  Things are too puzzling for me for that type of painting and i question what i remember and what i have seen too much.  I feel responsible to what i have witnessed.  I may evaluate inaccurately, forget important details or become adamant about inconsequential parts, but I don’t lie, and i do believe new significance is created simply by admission of a view.

Opening up my practice into larger spaces (coming from the smallness of a home, a studio, an island) and trying to retain that smallness is the motivator to expand.  Not being able to disentangle things is native to tight spaces.  This is how it feels inside me when i think about where what i make comes from — uptight.  Surely this is not an individual feeling, getting right back to being in-authentic.  We are constantly doing battle with our small spaces and trying to let loose.  It’s in attempt to manage these interior spaces and carry on without dragging that i make things, i paint, i take a picture, i look around me, i let something out, or let something in that will loosen me up.

Last week i was fearful and fretting about how i might keep dragging, how i might not be able to pick it up.  However, there’s nothing like a good quick phone conversation driving north in the car with an old friend to have them remind me, “Yeah, but you work well under pressure.  You’re funny in tight spots”  I replied that I’m unpredictable, i mean I don’t even know what i’m going to do next.  The simple confidence of a friend, a nudge from the outside, was a calming and helpful affect on my insides.  Thank You Mary Anne.  How can I not be moved?

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