From Form to Formless
The evolution of my creative practice.
Hello lovely earthly angels,
About a month ago, while I was still setting up my studio, I stumbled on a box of some old works I made at Dartmouth. Here’s one that I found myself particularly in love with now seeing it with fresh eyes:
I had spent two terms of creating work almost entirely from blind contours, and during that time I had memorized my own face and body with my hands and eyes. What I remember being so joyful about drawing myself was that there was never room for judgement. It was as objective as it was deeply intimate. Looking back it was one of the very few contexts in my life where I could allow myself to exist in peace, to take up space exactly as I was, as a fully formed subject. I could pay myself the same respect that I paid to other models through the total acceptance and appreciation for their form.
At the time I just knew that I liked working from the figure, and I was my most accessible subject. In hindsight I realize that by understanding and mapping my own landscape, I was learning how to witness myself from the point of view of the objective and loving creative spirit, and I was opening a portal to understanding something deeper within.
When I moved away from physical form I moved through that portal; abstraction became a way to give form to what I found within, a timeless, floating, forever expanding and collapsing mirror of the Universe. I became aware of the idea of Oneness, and for the first time I could see the world not as collection of many but as an ecosystem of one. I could see myself in the way water spoke and clouds gathered and in the birth and expansion of a flower. I think the exploration of my physical body somehow gave way to the knowing of something more Universal — it became clear that I was the Universe as much as you are and as much as the rocks that come up in thousands at the beach and disintegrate into infinite particles. Abstraction has shown me a way to perceive the world when time ceases to be linear, and we are eternal and infinite and formless, and it is this detached and pure space that I come to when I immerse in my own process of creation or as a witness to creation.
A couple months ago Aleena introduced me to the idea of being creative as an act of service to the Universe, and it turned my world sideways for a minute. Somewhere in me I could only see making art as deeply selfish. It’s felt like it has taken an awful lot of disappointing others to commit this much to this practice. But when I turn that idea around and try to see my creativity as an act of service it changes the nature of what creativity is — not as something I took for myself but rather as a generative and generous act of devotion to the Universe — and when I say the Universe I mean quite literally all of it — God, myself, you, the rest of the living, the nonliving, the untethered souls, and all the magic there ever was and will be. I am so small and this practice is the portal that connects me to the web that connects all of us.
Now that I perceive going to work every day as simply moving into my creative practice, work now has the potential to become synonymous with going to church. It’s not every day that we can show up and be inspired, but I have discovered how beautiful it is just to have that possibility every single day I commit to my practice. A week or two ago I came to my morning pages, the first thing I do most days to enter my creative zone, and the dullness I woke up with transformed into presence and inspiration, that beautiful feeling of enrapture, the kind that part of me was always afraid I could only access through psychedelics.
It wasn’t the first time I accessed this place, but it was the first time I knew, on a visceral level, and entirely sober, that being tapped into my own creativity meant being tapped into the creative energy of the Universe. That it was not just mine, and I was sinking in and tapping into an ever flowing and eternally abundant spring that all life and form had access to. This is the creative spirit, always original, no one’s to own, everyone and everything’s clear spring to drink from, bathe in, dissolve in, create from.
I could feel that power in my blood and bones and I am convinced it is literally in the water that unites this entire magical creative force of life and form on Earth. And it made me wonder if there is a different spring that fuels and runs in the veins of creative living beings in other parts of the Universe where life organizes along different systems.
I am understanding my work and my preoccupation with color blue in a new way — that we really do drink from the same water.
This year I’ve been preoccupied with what it means to fill the void, the one that I spend pre-pandemic filling with nicotine, drugs, partying, people, bad food, dopamine, etc. I know that connecting to this spiritual spring is how the void is filled. I am so in love with this expansive place of consciousness.
Not all the time, but every now and then I can access the magic and I can really feel the golden threads of life extending from my soul into this beautiful web of unity and interdependence. I am just beginning to touch some part of my garden that is beautiful and potent and fertile, like I’m on the edge of wholeness.
This is the void I’ve been trying to fill all my life.
All my love,
Thank you for being on this journey with me. If THE ART OF BEING resonates with you, and you feel so inclined, please share with your friends and invite them for the ride.