Last weekend we hit the highway and pulled up to a storefront in a nearby coastal city. Inside sprawled an art space where a handful of artists mingled beneath a barrel ceiling lit to the hilt before taking their places for a panel discussion. The gallerist, prepared with notes and video, dangled questions about background, motivation and process while we cast our glances around the room at one another’s work.
What a strange thing. What a U-turn from the outwardly silent, inwardly rambling monologue of the studio. Now, with the mic hot and camera rolling, I quietly wandered off in my mind to questions about the usefulness of five otherwise creative loners spending a Saturday afternoon verbally indulging themselves before a small crowd. Artists of all stripes understand that it may or may not be beneficial to talk about art, lest we muffle art’s own talking. Yet when invited, the chance to test the talk muscle is all but irresistible. “When your work speaks for itself, don’t interrupt,” said industrialist and father of the Hoover Dam, Henry J. Kaiser. And yet there we were, polluting an elegant, art-hung room with our inadequate words.
I noticed that artists with backgrounds in teaching were the most natural communicators; generous sharers of enthusiasm, unafraid to divulge inspirational discoveries or trail off spontaneously while thinking aloud. They mostly steered clear of academic credentials, $20 words and self-seriousness and instead jazzed with an appreciation for the infinite and humbling creative universe in which we were all stealing bliss. Microcosmic painting processes were described and revelled in — important, relevant and okay to spend time with. The choir nodded and, for a brief period, all seemed right in the world. And while, as Jean Cocteau announced, “An artist cannot speak about his art any more than a plant can discuss horticulture,” initially alone in my private toil of technique and purpose, I soon, once again, felt connected to a greater, noble, human plodding.
PS: “We are a very, very unusual species.” (Richard Dawkins)
“To restore silence is the role of objects.” (Samuel Beckett)
Esoterica: The son of a woodworker and craftswoman, an ex-patriot, ex-Realist and the wife of a Doctor of Philosophy, a mother, metalworker and would-be curator, a schoolteacher — working artists are summoned from the bodies and imaginations of those with the drive to roll up their sleeves and create. “The human heart has hidden treasures, / In secret kept, in silence sealed; / The thoughts, the hopes, the dreams, the pleasures, / Whose charms were broken if revealed.” (Charlotte Bronte)
“Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom.” (Sir Francis Bacon)
Come to Taos to paint, draw and write with a group of artists interested in deepening their vision and skills. Stay at the iconic Mabel Dodge Luhan House, a place where artists and writers have been gathering for nearly a century.
Artist and Instructor Julia Morgan will teach how to transform sketchbook pages with watercolor and drawing techniques that tell stories of vast and ever-changing skies, adobe dwellings nestled in cottonwood groves, red mesas along the horizon, the colored striations of cliffs, and the winding canyon carved by the Rio Grande.
All levels of art experience are welcome.