"Answered and Asked" - mixed media on cradled wood, 12 x 12 x 1.5. Ready to hang.
This wasn't the piece I intended to create today. But an artist friend threw down a challenge, and I found it resonating all morning. I was compelled to explore the topic.
In her recent post, Patricia Steele Raible asked: "does setting boundaries benefit us or keep us from crossing lines that might make a difference?" (Click here to see the full post. ) She later asked for a response and call from other artists. Hmmmm.
Boundaries have been a touchy topic most of my adult life. Mostly because I have trouble establishing them, and when I finally do, they are more like castle walls than lines in the sand. I know that when I do set boundaries, I feel a sense of relief and strength and self-care. But I am often inflexible, so the boundary can also prevent forgiveness and reconciliation later on. As much courage as it takes to erect a boundary, I believe it takes more to remove it again.
And it isn't just metaphorical boundaries, but the real ones, too. Fences can be a sweet relief from cantankerous neighbors or unsightly views, and create an oasis of visual bliss. But they also send a message of exclusion and unwillingness to mingle. Removing a fence or privacy hedge can make you feel vulnerable and exposed if you've become used to seeing it there.
So as I was mulling this over and working on the art, it all came together for me. A effective boundary (real and symbolic) is like a street sign. It doesn't really fit the landscape, so it stands out and asks the viewer to pay attention, pause or stop, and make a decision. Fences can be climbed, and doors can be broken down. Or they can be respected and require a change of direction. In this piece, the fence floats in the middle of a field. It suggests a boundary, but doesn't enforce it by traveling the length of the landscape. It's a "soft" boundary. It asks to be respected, but doesn't block the way.
For me, the late-blooming concrete block wall building maniac of boundary setting, learning to set a soft boundary early on would allow both a benefit (establishing that something needs to change a bit) and still provide a route to reconciliation and improvement before irrevocably blocking a path.
That's the answer, at least for today. So now I ask you, dear reader and creative people, where are your best boundaries, and why do they work?