Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A New Paradigm

This week's story caused me a big brain cramp trying to birth it.  It may be because it's more about my messy state of mind than the neat and pretty art I've been up to. Change, which I can't control, versus drawings and designs, which I can. I've interspersed the art for relief when you get tired of the words. Hope you don't get a brain cramp too.

When I was a public school educator back in the eighties, our school administration conducted a serious of lecture/workshops to introduce the faculty to some "new" social terminology (lifted from the field of scientific research): the paradigm. Simply stated, this is any philosophical or theoretical framework widely accepted as the norm. When you embrace the paradigm, you are "in the box." 

The goal was to acknowledge our current habits of reasoning and learning, and  to begin thinking "outside the box." This movement to new social structures is called a "paradigm shift." As I recall, we were instructed that a BIG ONE was happening in society.  The computer was starting to be everywhere, and for that and other reasons, our world was getting smaller.  Now we had to be on board to teach our students  the art of change.

Sketching at the mall with water soluble pen

Soon to be a victim of changing paradigms

At least that's how I recall it. Maybe I was doodling in the margins, and thinking about a guy named Fred, but I swear there were boxes and arrows and all kinds of lists of "what's in" and "what's out" and "what's about to be in and out."

That was about twenty five years ago (I gave up teaching about five years later, for numerous reasons I may talk about another day), and it's all really a blur except for the gut memory of confusion and boredom at these sessions. But in the end, a lot of change has come to pass in the way we think about and live our lives. This considerable shift in social structures has brought about what I believe is a big change in brain function as well. In those days, even with the prevalence of computers and video games, most of my interaction with people in my life was face to face, or at least ear to ear (with extended phone conversation.)  On the days that I couldn't get to my friends, we would talk in endless detail in cohesive phone chats.

Sketching on location: outdoor details (as seem through a window)

Just before the snow melted

Nowadays the phone almost never rings, and "chat" is barely more than instant text exchange. Most of my daily human interaction (outside that old school presence of a live in spouse) is done in tiny tidbits of short isolated postings over the Internet. As much as I love to death all the new people I am meeting and the possibilities of relationships that abound, it no longer has the same intense, messy personal connection of those pre-cyberspace days. I look at the sheer number of humans I talk to daily and then consider how many of them can be there for me in real life. What can be so comforting in theory (unlimited connection), fails to fulfill the real human need for physical proximity, eye contact, touch. "LOL" is definitely not the same as laughing together.

A box made from art to store small art journals

The bottom and inside of the box; a real, not theoretical one

And yet, if it weren't for this new "box,"  I wouldn't be talking to all of you, and I wouldn't be exploring my art which has become, in a very short while, the center of my life. I think I understand there is no going back and I wouldn't want to. So I've decided not to emphasize the negative aspects that come with change, but embrace what's good in it.

My most recent design in Contemporary Woven Boro, called "Blue Moon Heart"

Being aware of the box, I too can think outside. If I can help it, I will have a long connected life. It is far from over, and I intend to continue looking beyond the horizon where the best of the future will be. I'm going to follow that sun.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

So Over It

It has got to be my fault. I didn't have a holiday tree this past December, but instead decorated my living room mantle and stair railings with colored lights to cheer the shorter days of what used to be called "Winter". I always used to say I didn't mind "Winter".  I rather like the break from an expanded life to cozy up by a fire, stay in my cocoon a while, and apply my attention to creations of the hand and heart.  This year especially, with studying drawing and weaving in online classes, I am well occupied in the warm spaces of my lovely life. Instead of the usual ritual of taking down the tree on New Year's Day, those lights are still being lit against the dark and cold, and well, maybe I've created the curse.

Winter in shades of indigo

Lighting the Winter night with promises of Red Buds on dark branches come spring

But let's face it, the calendar says it's almost Valentine's Day, and I do believe on average the "Jailer" season should be moderating by now. You know, the occasional sunny day without wind, when you can bundle up, but not too much, and walk in the open air. The day when my "Fargo" hat can be left in the closet. I thoroughly miss walking. In season (which used to include this one at least sometimes), I do it almost every day.  I'm so ready to make plans with friends or to attend events that don't get cancelled by snowfall and ice. I'd definitely rather not be healing bruised ribs sustained in an awkward tumble onto my book bag.

Yes, that says minus 1.7. Walk, anybody?

I read that some of my California friends are planting and enjoying Spring flowers. Who says they get to start Spring without the rest of us? All my flowers come from Costco, and seem to mock me from their perch on the kitchen island.

Instead, I must satisfy the longing for warmth with warm art. I have been drawing cozy chairs at Starbucks, and weaving Spring themed cloths. One of my favorite cloths in progress is a representation of my open heart, reaching out to the positive things that have been entering my life lately. It speaks of longing: the heart growing from a grid of warm red tones, layered on the infinite deep blue of the night sky. It is only in the beginning stages, but it cheers me and feels solid already.

From my class with Jane LaFazio, Sketch and Watercolor on Location

An Open Heart

Another piece is airy and light and feminine and has no purpose yet other than to reconnect me to the lightness of the air in Spring. That smell of warming earth that stops me in my tracks just to breath and go.....ahhhhh, it's back!

The tree destined for the back of my Spring denim jacket has acquired blossoms similar to a local favorite, the Red Bud, with its delicate fuchsia pink sprouting on the bare dark branches. It is a pleasure to work on it with its lovely complex colors and soft textures. I am almost ready to further define the story in embroidery.
A collage of closeups of pure joyful color

And so, in the face of the relentless snow and cold outside, falling even as I write this, and the start of yet another stretch of deep freeze canceling a romantic trip to the city this weekend, I am letting my art dispel the funk, and bring me closer to the eventual achievement of "Spring".  I have faith because what else is it to be alive, but to accept the circles of change, to make the most of the times we are given, every bit of it. Around me I have friends and family members stricken with adversity not in their control: unemployment, illness, loss. And me? I am lately blessed with riches beyond measure in the shape of opportunity for connections and growth, for love and creation. I mean to acknowledge this every day.

So I take up my paint and pens, my cloth and thread, and I create my thanks for all these blessings while I can.