Where do I begin and end? And where.
As I strum the thing, do I pick up
That which momentarily declares
Itself not to be I and yet
Must be. It could be nothing else.
(Wallace Stevens, “The Man with the Blue Guitar”)
Cento: a patchwork, a poem created entirely from lines quoted from other poets.
The other day in conversation with a group of women friends, I brought up the question of identity and the role that appropriation plays in the construction of self. My view was that we quite literally produce an every-changing sense of self through and in the work of others (books, the arts, conversation, etc.). In my case, I feel there is nothing of my own in this ‘self’, (ie. original) but that all of it, all of it comes from others. To me this is clear from the way I create my drawings. They are quite literally drawn from the writing of other authors and the image making of previous artists. That is, the production of self, both individual and shared, is a becoming, through and with interactions with others – choosing, acting, living—composing a life within a social context, an inextricably social context. Even if most of my work is produced in isolation, its source is always dialogic.
I’m working on a variation of the what then series, this time starting from a lightjet image and then adding scribbles and text drawings overtop. This is the technique I’ve been using for 3 years now (cf. the Withdrawn:scribing Nancy series). The collaged bits of magic tape are new to this project, but not new to my working process. The tape adds another dimension to the petals, and gives me another opportunity for adding text.
The process of working on/with an expensive medium such as the lightjet print creates an interesting tension. There’s no erasing possible. The ink and dip-pen overdrawing has a will of its own, with dribbles and blobs an inevitable part of the process. Sometimes the blobs add their own charm, other times, I’m not so lucky. Regardless, it is this tension, this dialogue between medium and hand that keeps me coming back for more encounters.
On July 5th, one of my favorite artists, Cy Twombly died. The scribbles, drips, scratchy integration of text, drawing and paint, the vast canvases and the re/interpretation of antique literary sources and modern poetry are some of the aspects that drew me to his work. Twombly painted flowers several times throughout his career, the most recent in 2008, a series of roses that incorporated some fragments of text from Rilke’s own addresses to the rose. Since I’ve been working with rose petals these past two years, I thought I’d name this recent series of 12 white-petal drawings, “12 for Cy.”
This blogging project based on drawing and text, using a variety of drawing media including the inscribed, tattooed white rose petals creates a space that in turn allows for elaboration and exploration in other directions. Here is a new project I’ve recently undertaken which has arisen from the essay I’ve been working on for the past while, “The Visitation,” by Jean-Luc Nancy.
In the biblical tale of the Visitation, the meeting of Mary and Elizabeth affirmed the physical presence of the double miracle – the virgin conception and the equally miraculous pregnancy of Elizabeth, a woman already past childbearing age. From that meeting, came the iconic Christian prayer, said to have been spoken by Mary upon greeting Elizabeth – the magnificat. The prayer speaks of love, of duty, of the handmaiden chosen and exhaulted above others: “…from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.” It is a beautiful, patriarchical document of belief that focuses on the power of the father and positions Mary as a vehicle of divine will. I have chosen to explore some of these ideas – love, the body, the concept of the feminine as creator, and have begun a project that reinscribes into the original words, a new voice, made of even older words, those of Sappho, along with my own dialogues that address my own realities of embodiment – via memories and present experiences of ageing.
This work in progress, I am producing on my studio wall – utilizing the inscribed petals as vehicles for the texts, and, as a counterpoint, I am drawing with graphite and acrylic onto the wall.
This set of images represent a re-interpretation of the opening phrases of Jean-Luc Nancy’s essay “On the Threshold,” from his text The Muses. Nancy examines a painting by Caravaggio, “The Death of the Virgin,” (1605-6) and utilizes the complex spaces, colors and forms of this work to explore ideas of the relationship of viewer to image.
I have chosen to do this transcription in white with tones of grey, in order to examine this in-between space, this threshold.