Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Deer Isle, Maine

Town of Stonington

The idea behind an Open Studio Residency is that the studios of all different disciplines are open to artists of various disciplines, to visit, explore, ask questions, and perhaps experiment with others' materials. And almost all of the studios here are of disciplines I've never explored: wood, metal, jewelry, pottery, glass, paper. I am drawn most to the paper and book artists, which makes sense. So yesterday I made paper for the first time, from shared flax, small discs of paper on which I hope to type.

After that, I don't know. Maybe I will sew them in a circular binding. Maybe I'll frame them in leather and hang them as a haikumobile. Maybe I'll convince an assistant to teach me to weld. Maybe I'll have the 3D printer build me a three-dimensional story. Maybe I'll carve in clay so I can tile a bathroom with words.

Certainly, ideas are not lacking after spending even three days together with people such as these. The most freeing thing about this openness is the way it makes any idea viable. This place is nothing if not fertile loam for creative growth. Stu Kestenbaum, a poet and the director here for twenty years, talks about the creative process seriously, in a way that makes clear the decades of hands-on experience he's had making it happen, watching it happen. There's a depth behind his words that makes me as serious about it as he is. He's spent his life watching artists grow, cultivating them the way others would plants.

Always, my subconscious rewards creative play. It's almost as if we have to distract ourselves for image and imagination to germinate. The question I continue to return to is: how do I know what I want? How does that part of myself decide? The diversity of craft represented here is mind-blowing—artifacts that I could not have conceived. But still somehow all of these people have the same level of certainty about their craft, and not just about their craft but each specialization within it, materials within each specialization, each shape, each color, each microscopic decision.

Maybe choice is the central player in art, even when the number of choices is infinite. Maybe we like talking about that less—the numinous subconscious goop guiding all of these decisions—because whatever part of us choosing is a mystery. And still, somehow, a part of us knows.

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