Balance in Action

As an artist, you are always seeking to be amused and amazed.  Well, I am.  Not necessarily conscious of that constant quest, but when I see, hear, touch the THING, I KNOW the thing. This is it! This is the quality or sensation I desire to bring into my current work; here is how someone else has expressed it. For a minute, I was going to compare it to finding the perfect dress for shoppers (men, you KNOW what I’m talking about), but with meeting inspirational work of art also comes the deep understanding of the how, why, who that reinforces my determination and connection to being physical and developing my capabilities to transform myself and matter through action.  It isn’t so much about having something as it is about feeling met by the sublime.

For me, my problem-solving and filtering for process and materials to make projects never truly shuts off.  Some projects are concept driven, others process, and usually a combination of many interlacing overlapping connections.

So I want to share a few recent things that move me with such power of their grace, tenacity, skill, and beautiful wisdom in form.  And I say “things,” but within those things is the human maker and the essence of their being channeled into matter before you.

First,  Miyoko Shida’s performance for the Spanish TV program “Tú Sí Que Vales” (“You Can Do It”) Enough said.  (But did you wear your sunglasses?)

On May 12th, it was sunny and people of all ages wished me Happy Mother’s Day.  Never had that before, but was receptive to the joy splash.  I met with a friend at Madison Square Park to see the labor-loving work of Orly GengerRed, Yellow, and Blue.

Red, Yellow, and Blue by Orly Genger photo by Colleen Flanigan

The red is washed out in this photo by the overexposing light- it truly is Ruby red in person- but you can see the detail of the 1.4 million feet of hand-crocheted lobster-ropes that took 9,000 hours over a 2-year period to wrangle. Impressive forms and fortitude.  I stood there imagining if these were made out of steel and electrified. They could accrete with minerals to become incredible breakwaters and marine habitat. It would be good to insert some openings, water passages, so that flow-through would be possible, slowing currents while preventing the massive force slamming into a solid wall.

Red, Yellow, and Blue by Orly Genger. photo Colleen Flanigan

The slim tree branch above arcs to mirror the thicker waving wall below.  Did Orly do that on purpose?  Probably. She and her team certainly took time to stand back and look at what they were doing from all angles before and during the composing of this landscape masterpiece.

Red, Yellow, and Blue photo Colleen Flanigan

Even though not actually moving, there’s obviously motion in this work- in the large and small wriggles, and in the making.  As Orly says in the The New York Times, “It was more about using my body as the tool and having a direct relationship with the material.” I feel the same way. As I write this, I flash back to my most recent experience being so fully free and communicating through my senses and physicality with materials.  It was this May, for a few brief moments, with some large flexible cable and sheet metal for a pop-up art installation.  (I’ll do a post on it soon!)  It was not nearly enough time or energy invested in what she is talking about, though, that kind of physical artwork so satisfying because of the resistance and the forces acting together to blur the lines of who is really living- you or the material.  Once you are holding and working with a weighty material that in a way has muscles of its own, you see and feel how IT is working with you, as well. There is no real master or servant.  Physics and poetry allow you to become one energetic emergence.

Red, Yellow, and Blue photo Colleen Flanigan

And as Miyoko exemplifies in her performance with those lighter pieces, she needs to be centered to balance.  Sometimes what looks so steady and seamless is dependent on a feather and focus.  Both of these artists create peace and serenity through hours and hours of practice, patience, and commitment.  They give us a moment or more to contemplate balance in action and power in silently offered passions.

I said I was going to share a few things, and I only have time for two today.  Two more coming up soon!  Plus the post about the pop-up art show Reef Re-Formed: A Biorock Simulation.


Pinning Inspiration

When I recently saw a ficus leaf mineral thru an electron microscope on pinterest, it reminded me of this piece from about 15 years ago. When I made it, I’d never seen a ficus leaf mineral, but I love how interrelated so many forms and patterns of nature appear to be, whether you’ve ever seen them to influence you or not.

Catching Glimpses in the Gloaming, 1998. Crocheted copper wire, cast silver dogwood blossoms, fake eyelashes, fake fur, steel wire. Photo Courtney Frisse

“I can’t even look at it,” ran through my head whenever I would see the little pin it icon. “Pinterest is going to distract me from important things.”

But now I’m coalescing Nature Patterns onto a digital board that kind of tweaks the in-love chemistry in my brain.  Pinning before bed has catalyzed beautiful, vivid dreams; something about the free associative process of following this intricate thread of visual networks is soothing while stimulating creativity. To be able to float through images, seeing some things I never knew existed in the world, is like cranking the amperage on curiosity and getting a fascination fix.

Every time I pin onto this board, I’m adding inspirational matter for future Living Sea Sculptures.  As I gravitate towards images, I see a collage emerging; it’s a valuable personal palette made from the communal well of web surfing and discovery.  Microscopic bacteria, bike chains, textiles, lava flows, and biology on land and sea reflect and imitate each other as they assemble into rivulets, orbs, bumps and repetitions. Physical forces, changing pressure and process has resulted in these…these moments captured in photographs and stills.  Somehow there is motion and color telling a story, a lifelong history embedded in the pictures, and that wordless-ness attracts and suggests new models for ocean habitat.

Sculptural porcelain by Nuala O'Donovanj