Muses

In the Studio

Constructing Water

Making Constructing Water Time Lapse Video

My studio time for the past year has consisted primarily of what you see in the video above. Constructing Water is 48” x 67″ with 18 layers of hand cut clear Dura-Lar. Cutting intricate shapes with an X-acto blade is a long and tedious process. It is nearly impossible to document the progress of the work because it is clear; It photographs terribly. After I complete a layer I place it on top of the other completed layers and cover them all with a bedsheet. Then I put the fresh new Dura-Lar on top of it all and carry on. By doing that I can avoid thinking about how to finally out it all together for a while longer. It’s a crazy puzzle that I don’t know how to complete. Nothing that I have tried has worked.

Layers Exposed; Layers Covered

As I avoid thinking about what to do with all of the pieces, I have plenty of time to think about other things. Often I listen to audio books and podcasts. Recently I was listening to a podcast about the Greek muses.

I am not drawn to the more contemporary understanding of a muse as a particular person who inspires an artist to create work, almost like a love letter about the one objectified as the muse. I am more interested in the ancient Greek understanding of the muses. They are more like nymphs who could be found in forests and streams. They are capricious beings who have ideas of their own and they are looking for someone to help them manifest those ideas into tangible creations in the world. They are transient collaborators at best.

You can tell when your muse has made a visit: The unsolvable problem suddenly has a solution; The work that has been a struggle seems to move freely; Everything else drops away – time has no meaning and the work flows; Ideas for the next project arise. Sometimes it seems like the muse has a tight schedule and can only hang out for 15 minutes, but she wants to load you up with a year’s worth of information so she can go on a long vacation while she leaves you alone to do all the work. Those visits feel manic. Other times the muse wants to hang out for longer, stay for coffee and a walk in the woods. At night she snuggles on the couch under a warm blanket and settles in for a long fulfilling conversation. Those times feel like magical times with a timeless friend. These are the visits that are transcendent. They bring you out of the everyday world and connect you with something much larger. The only other time I have felt anything similar to that is while kayaking. Everything else falls away and I am no longer kayaking in the water: I become the water. It’s a melding, blissful dance where everything feels harmonious and perfect. There is no thinking needed. What needs to be known already is known and there is just the being and doing of it, and the doing of it feels easy and perfect. I’m positive my muse is from the river and she has been on a lot of river trips with me.

10 minute interval photo

Muses Can Be Found Here

My muse doesn’t visit often. Sometimes she stays away for years. But it’s not her job to keep me company, or make art easy, or fun, or to make anything at all. My job is to do that. I have to do the work. I show up in the studio regularly no matter if the muse will join me or not. But, no doubt, it is better when the muse shows up. The ancient Greeks would try to summon a muse by pouring milk and honey on the ground. Apparently they thought that muses like to come for dessert. I’m not so sure about this. I think the muses prefer dedication and the willingness to show up even if there doesn’t seem to be any reason to show up at all. And so I do.

Recently, when I was preparing to go to the studio, I suddenly really wanted chocolate. There had been a box of Toblerone chocolates sitting on the washing machine for weeks. I mindlessly went to grab a few to take with me. As I did, next to the box of chocolates, I saw a box of supplies used to fix the gaskets in my drysuit, left over from a repair job that I did in October before a multi-day trip on the Rogue River. The box has been there for months. It had become practically invisible, having been there so long. This time my eyes went straight to it and I saw a small package of Scotch clear mounting tabs sitting in the bottom of the box, and I knew that my muse popped in briefly for a minor visit. She must have been getting frustrated with me. I thanked my muse, put the tabs in my bag and headed straight to my studio, where I learned that she knew exactly what she was doing, and what we needed, all along.

I never did grab those chocolates. After all, they were not what I had been wanting to find.

painting grid

A used cutting template for one layer of Constructing Water

Many thanks to all of you who responded to last month’s Studio News. It was great to hear from you. Keep your comments and thoughts coming.

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