Image: My collage based on Gauguin's The Joy of Rest
All day I tried to think of ideas for my weekly art project.
As I mentioned in earlier posts, I've decided to work with visual imagery in order to deepen my writing. I've pledged to do a small piece of artwork once a week (I may skip a week here and there) that will be based on a postcard image.
I did some prewriting on the theme of "rest," but nothing notable happened. Then I went to my little art room (which is more of a junk room, actually) and got out the folders in which I keep hundreds of little images I've snipped from magazines during the last few months. (I started snipping the images in ernest after seeing what an artist friend of mine, Marce does with collage. Marce's work is truly exceptional and really speaks to me. She works out a lot of her problems and obsessions through her art.) Although I believe writing is the perfect format for me to find meaning, I believe there's something for me to learn by doing artwork, too.
Within five minutes of sorting through the images, I came up with an idea for my collage.
My interpretation of the "joy" of rest, which I created on the back of the postcard of Gauguin's The Joy of Rest is my representation of a liminal experience.
A limen is "The threshold of a physiological of psychological response." I've been coming across the term "liminal experience" in much of my reading over the last few years, especially in Parabola, a journal devoted to myth.
The troubled-looking woman in blue is at a threshold between two experiences.
In the left panel, she looks back to her youth, a time when her life was ruled by romantic love. She remembers the excitement and peacefulness of the strong embrace. She remembers the feeling of having her whole life before her, and how the possibilities seemed endless. The birds fly up. They represent freedom and also the sacredness of relationships.
The image on the right is from a photograph by Terry Evans called Drawer of Meadowlarks. Here, the birds are mere specimens. They no longer fly. They no longer sing. They exist only for the cold eye of the critic who sorts and categorizes them. They have been claimed by death. I've also recently come to understand that the meadowlark is symbolic of the inner journey. So death does not necessarily mean physical death, it can also mean the death of willingness or desire to look within.
The woman, in this threshold experience, decides it is time to grasp all she can from life. Death awaits, but she is alive now. It is "Time to Get Down to Business."
In my own case, getting down to business means giving myself over to my creative life. It means getting back to image-making again, even though I know I'm rusty at it. I want to do it for the joy of the experience, not for the end product. Getting down to business also means devoting myself to my writing without worrying about how it advances my teaching career or about the publications.
I think kissing is a liminal experience. There is a moment when you are at a threshold, that moment just before you give yourself over completely to your lover. Similarly, when I do art or writing, I am within the realm of the liminal experience. There is a moment just before I fall into the creative act when a kind of tension is created. Yes, I am at rest in the same way one might be at rest during prayer. But it is a particular kind of rest. When you pray, there is an intense connection being made between yourself and your god. But to make that connection, you have to loosen your feet from the earth and fly toward the beloved god. When I'm creating it is the same. The moment, although restful, is shot through with the intensity of a lover's kiss or of an encounter with god.
I think it's natural for men and women to seek paradise. Gauguin looked for it in Tahiti. He went there but found paradise had already been ruined by colonization. He tried to recreate it through his paintings. In them, we see the human striving for wholeness.
I don't think I've experienced paradise any more fully than in my lover's arms or during intense periods of creating.
Truly, we don't have to go anywhere to find paradise. Paradise is within.