The Wheelbarrow June 12th
Consider the wheelbarrow. It may lack the grace of an airplane, the speed of an automobile, the initial capacity of a freight car, but its humble wheel marked out the path of what civilization we still have. Particularly that phase of civilization that leads down Main Street, through the front gate, around the house, and into the back garden. It also led the way up Broadway, across State Street and even through Piccadilly Circus; but that’s another story.
The story we prefer is a simpler one. It deals with rocks and roots and hunks of sod and bags of lime. It includes dead leaves and lively onions, old compost and new potatoes, seedling flats and spades and rakes, squash and pumpkins and outsize heads of cabbage. And two hardwood handles, two callused hands. It makes the rounds of March mud and harvest and November frost. It goes places without ever getting far from home.
Like faith, the wheelbarrow can move mountains. A few drops of oil can silence its loudest complaint. In spring it is a thing of beauty, particularly if it is both new and red. In summer it is a challenge to human endurance. In fall it is- sometimes- a cornucopia. Always it is there, needing only human companionship and cooperation to get things done… (Twelve Moons of the Year, 1979, p. 160).
I typed and then I deleted: If I could begin each day with a reading of Hal Borland I…
“If” I want to wake to Borland’s rhythmic observations of the seasons then I should.
How funny, we humans are, that we make statements that live neither in the past, in the present moment, nor in the future; words that sail upon molecules of unseen gases like blown bubbles that burst into disappearance. I have flashbacks of Cinderella cleaning the floor, singing “Sweet Sweet Nightingale,” as the soap mops up into floating mirrors of her labor, changing colors, and popping out of reality (existence or what we can see as being).
Replace the wheelbarrow with memories and Borland speaks towards an abstract idea. Memories hold and transfer purpose, identity, shape, and form as they (we) age. I am beginning a tangent of “nostalgia” but memories inform the future and can influence the here-and-now. When I am at a place of closure, or of departure, a slide shown often flips imaginary pages in my mind. My school semester has concluded. “If” I think about the end for too long I gather an emotional response. “If” I let fear invade, I become anxious, sad, and worrisome of how to continue a journey without the established framework and support of the past. But, perhaps, my transition is similar to that of growing from a child into an independent thinker. Or, maybe I am now conscious of my motivations for creating art.
Why make art?
Madonna urges us to “express ourselves,” Shakespeare pleads, “to thine own self be true” and Matisse assures us “creativity takes courage.” We receive societal messages to be ourselves and to create the lives we want to live. Though- as grey the area may be- being an artist also requires a deep internal desire or hunger. Despite my personal drive and interests, working on my MFA-IA has provided an additional goal and journey to work towards. On days when I woke up writing mid sentence and could not get my hands dirty enough in pigment, I was able to seize my hunger. The challenge will be to maintain (and to increase) my practice into a rigorous exploration of media, culture, expression, and thought.
Surrounding myself with other individuals who operate in the realm of the right brain and who see brilliant spectrums of color within particles of sand (and feel free enough to state their observations) increases my own ability and yearning for expression. Last week I photographed a clothing shoot for a local alternative clothing line, Wings of Sin. Melaney Petini danced across dark grass while holding fire instruments made by Georgi Jones. In the light of manmade flame, I attempted to capture the essence of creative moments. However many photographs I took, I know that the experience of witness and role as observer, were more meaningful than the resulting images to show. Our incentives to make art should always account for the process. After all, we cannot immortalize a flame.
A wheelbarrow is never a finished object because its presence is an ongoing assistance (catalyst) of movement: carrying dirt, transporting large stone, hugging the body of a tired child, or holding fallow rainwater. Never are we yelling “Now you are finally a wheelbarrow!” so we should never expect our art to be the same. A canvas with the first stroke is already a painting. Like a yoga pose, we are participating and creating at the first step of a movement or even at the first thought of intent.
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