All original images and text are copyright 2008-2018 Liz Sweibel

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Here I Am

From Ellen's directions:  "Subject matter, media, scale is your choice. Handing the work in, is not."  From Ana, one of the librarians where I teach, when asked what she learned on a leave of absence:  "It doesn't matter."  She wasn't saying that what she learned doesn't matter, but that she learned It doesn't matter.  It's stuck with me and, when I'm lucky, it surfaces when I'm weighing a decision that has no real significance.  It doesn't matter whether I do this or do that, it only matters that I do.  It's not a way of life for me, but a strategy I can use to keep it moving.  It's been my mantra this weekend in the studio.

Like the good student I am, yesterday I began drawing from observation using a pencil, the only divergent path being my choice of vellum over Stonehenge.  I wanted an unfamiliar surface.  Everything about it felt stupid and awful.  So my first rerealization (I know this, have known it forever, just periodically have to unearth it all over again) was that I'm not interested in drawing what I see.  I'm interested in drawing what I can't see but what I feel and know and need to actualize.  I'm rereading Daybook with my students, and Anne Truitt describes it for herself as "attempts to catch the threshold of consciousness, the point at which the abstract nature of events becomes perceptible."

I took another sheet and started making tiny circle-like marks in an intuitive pattern, then flipped the vellum over and used a pink Prismacolor pencil to give the marks a ground.  The marks suggested holes and so I turned to needle and thread for the next drawing, and the next, and the next.  And each time I felt myself overdeliberating I thought, It doesn't matter.  I kept it moving and made quite a few.  They suggest an architecture/establish a place, with a carefully placed occupant or witness in collage or colored pencil.  More from Truitt:  "Sculptors, relying as they do on subtle kinaesthetic cues for the apprehension of weight and form, may be more dependent than other people on placement."

I can only be the artist I am.  To compare myself to those who make grander, public gestures on similar themes isn't fair; it's an act of judgment that makes me invisible to myself.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

September 11, 2010

From my kitchen window I can see the shaft of light from Ground Zero quite clearly, and the Empire State Building alight in red, white, and blue.  There seems to be an inordinate number of sirens going off, not car alarms but fire and police.  I wasn't living in NYC on 9/11; living here makes the day even more unfathomable.

Not Giving Up

The most forthright statement I can open with is that not until recently have I even fleetingly thought of stopping, of closing up shop.  I won't stop, I can't stop, but the thought doesn't contradict that.  It's just a thought.  What's behind it is the frustration of this ongoing block and the challenge of making enough time and finding enough courage to push through it.

I've asked my dear friend and colleague Ellen Eagle, who knows me and my work intimately and how hard it is now, to stay with me on this, so of course she is.  I have homework.  I'm to draw with a blank mind and show her some drawings when we Monster Tuesday night.  (Monster is the verb form of feasting at Monster Sushi on 23rd Street.)  It sounds so straightforward, except that it isn't, plus I don't have a paper-and-pencil drawing practice, which of course might also work in my favor.

I'm thwarted by my expectation that my work be Good and Important, and that prescription for paralysis has been in effect for awhile.  The sense of futility that got entrenched in me at my previous job also entrenched the paralysis, because the work I find Good and Important feels so much further beyond my resources than it ever has.

I must get out of my own way and do my homework.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Rest in Peace, Willa

I've been reconnecting more with my Boston art community.  I miss these artists and my critique group dearly; it is about the only aspect of my Boston years I still mourn for.  I'm fairly isolated in NYC as an artist, and it makes it all harder.  I was invited into a critique group shortly after moving here in 2004 and was in it for a couple of years, but it was unsatisfying - and that was more painful than the isolation, so I left it.  Part of the appeal of the Governors Island residency is to meet other artists and work in a shared space for awhile.

I've been in closer touch with Marty Epp-Carter, who was my Boston studiomate and crit group buddy, and remains my dear friend.  We went through an enormous amount together, from our day-to-day art and life exchanges to my intense MFA years to the simultaneous end of our long-term relationships to our moves out of our fabulous studio to new parts of the country.

One of the special treats of our studio life together was that Marty brought Willa, her yellow Lab.  If they arrived after me, Willa would charge through Marty's studio up the steps and back to mine to say hello before the leash was off.  Willa made a huge contribution to the home-like quality of our space.

This morning Marty is saying good-bye to Willa, who has grown very old.  When I got Marty's note last night, a huge wave of grief and loss crashed down on me.  From my experiences losing Spike and Riley, the moment will be cutting, and the absence will resonate for many, many months and linger forever.  Rest in peace, Willa.