Art is about seeing.
And the sun is in Leo: See and Be Seen. 21,915 days as a human being. And still the way I see is changing.
I've been stuck in my head, mired in the negative nonsense of the number of years I now am. How I saw myself (in the mirror, in my mind's eye) was not always flattering (and now and then downright unkind). Until someone who loves me showed me how I look through his eyes and camera lens. It was (is) the greatest gift. Thank you, my love, for seeing this me in me.
This all started because I challenged myself to be exceptionally vulnerable about turning sixty. (You know well, dear reader, how much I value vulnerability and all it brings). Which included being wiling to put my very self out there the same way I do my art, risking rejection and ridicule but going for it anyway. Because when I am ninety and look back at sixty, I want to know that I was sixty without reservation.
What I didn't expect was to be changed by the experience.
I did not expect to feel exhilarated standing nude on a mist-shrouded beach in freezing water. I did not expect to feel self-love cover me like a warm blanket, and the weight of inhibition to fall away like unwanted detritus. I did not expect it to be so awkwardly and wonderfully delicious.
Days later, upon seeing the final photos, I did not expect to be overwhelmed by tears.
What I saw in those (these) pictures was not the me I knew. What I saw was a woman much and gently and gracefully loved. I wanted to be her - and I was (am) her. How could this be, that I never saw this me?
There are tears as I write these words. To be seen changes how I see.
Mark Nepo's words have illuminated my experiences for some years now, and these words (which I have quoted here before) are just the thing, I think, for this:
“We waste so much energy trying to cover up who we are when beneath every attitude is the want to be loved, and beneath every anger is a wound to be healed and beneath every sadness is the fear that there will not be enough time.
When we hesitate in being direct, we unknowingly slip something on, some added layer of protection that keeps us from feeling the world, and often that thin covering is the beginning of a loneliness which, if not put down, diminishes our chances of joy.
It’s like wearing gloves every time we touch something, and then, forgetting we chose to put them on, we complain that nothing feels quite real. Our challenge each day is not to get dressed to face the world but to unglove ourselves so that the doorknob feels cold and the car handle feels wet and the kiss goodbye feels like the lips of another being, soft and unrepeatable.”
Here's to sixty, dear reader.
Here's to not covering up who we are, to ungloving ourselves.
(with deep gratitude to my partner for the gift of his skills as a photographer and artist and all the things.)
NUDGE-SHOVE opens right here on August 1. Sign up for email notifications (in the column on the right).
Sometimes, as a storyteller/artist, I don't even know what the story is until someone like you, dear reader, comments on how the piece feels to them. And then there is a little AHA lightbulb - it is often spot-on. We are complicit, you and I, in these tales woven in paint. I like the idea that we're conspiring together.
About the art: beginning with a heavily textured and gesso'd canvas, painting a portrait in oil paint (this one inspired by a photo of a coal miner). The underpainting was allowed to dry for several days. Then adding thick, loose oil paint (mixed with Liquin) in large brush strokes all over the face. Moving the paint with squeegee and rubber wedge from left to right. I returned to the details with a small brush to bring out the eyes and face highlights again. Then, a Gamsol-soaked wet brush dragged along top edges and allowed to run through the wet paint, leaving delicious texture. Want to see it in action? Head over to my instagram for a little video.
It might be a response to the world. Or maybe a way of working through to the words I long to have. Or just a delicious journey of destruction.
Whatever the reason, there are more to come. And once you get started down this rabbit hole, there is no stopping.
About the art: beginning with a black gesso'd canvas, loosely sketching a portrait and building the layers in oil paint. Moving the paint with squeegee and rubber brayer, then back in with more layers of detailed definition and shadowing. The final layer is mixed with a generous helping of Liquin to keep the paint very wet. Moved horizontally with squeegee and wedge.
Want to see it in action? Head over to Instagram.com/jenjovanart for a video
And while my thoughts are fermenting, the art is expanding. A new show is coming (shhhhhhhh! It's a little secret! Details soon!) and it's pushing me in the studio. If you'd like to be notified when the show begins, subscribe (in the column on the right) and you'll get a little notice in your in-box. :).
If you've also been struggling for words lately, leave a little comment below. Maybe we can all help each other figure out exactly what words might be best right now.
About the art: beginning with untreated Arches watercolor paper and sketching with charcoal, then blending in acrylic paint to form the structure of the portrait and basic values and colors. Using rubber wedge and large brushes, going over the acrylic with oil paint and allowing it to move and slide and blend. I'm delighted to be working in oils again!