I spent 2 hours crawling around a beach on Applegate Island in Prince William Sound on Saturday, filling a Ziplock bag with Finger Stones -- finger-shaped, finger-sized, smooth-on-all-sides and not wedge-shaped or too heavy otherwise you can't do this:
I first found Finger Stones last summer and knew they were something special: Why are they nearly all the same size? Why only in this tidal zone? Why can't I stop picking these up? Why is everyone calling me back to the dinghy and I'm not coming? I loaded my pockets without a plan (other than The Must Have Plan) and I'm sure my husband had flashbacks of 1970's summer camp rocks with googly eyes when I first organized and admired them like my own little battalion back on the boat. ("And you're doing what with all these?") Later combined with felted wool they created this heavy, bendy, spine-like fabulousness that feels primal and raw. Applied as a surface treatment, they take on a shamanic, bone-like heft.
I keep returning to bone and spine forms in my work because they feel important. (Here's where anyone who knows me -- even remotely -- is thinking, "Oh no, she's going to start talking about her one-time 12 mm herniated disk on L5 again ... go now, run!" But I'm not mentioning it here because that would be boring). So no. You won't hear about my pain, but my work does explore pain. And this is partly the impetus. It's really personal. But isn't that the point? Because if you aren't creating art that is personal then it's Plop. You've seen it -- plopped -- no sense of place, no sense of space, no sense of self or the human condition. But if you can create art that pulls from the inner thread and binds it to the loose ends of others' lives, then you will move people. If you can, in this case, distill pain -- physical, emotional -- and create something beautiful, then people see elements of themselves in the work, whether or not they understand why right away, or ever. There's just that something that makes one want to know more, or look more, or ask why, or listen harder, or be disturbed, and ultimately remember.
Or just be distracted for a whole 2 hours. By rocks.
Which is why I didn't react immediately when my daughter slipped and fell into an enormous tide pool and started crying (then made me pinky promise not to tell her dad and brother. "They won't even notice, honey," I said, emptying her boot and wringing out her shirt). I couldn't react. Because I was the mom who'd been crawling around on a stony beach all afternoon and was now FROZEN in that position (see comment about L5) with a splitting bag of rocks and a screaming kid somewhere behind me. There was that grimacing moment of: "Use. Your. Core. Have. To. Stand. Up." But then there was the other luxury, the moment of beauty staring at the ground and practicing what around here we still call hypno-birthing breathing: "Oh, look, there's another Finger Stone," and, "There's one more," and "No, that one's not perfect, but, oh, wait, here's a really good one..."
Artist in Anchorage, Alaska, sometimes blogging about the collision of history, family & art, with the understanding that none exists without the other.