Saturday, September 3, 2011

Day 2 Color Impressions

Today has been an internal battle, with repeating thoughts that I can't handle this project and that I need to leave and escape to a safe retreat.  I went back to bed for a couple of hours after breakfast because I just couldn't face the day.  Here is what it looks like:
The drawing came out prettier than I felt - I think perhaps the blues should have been greys, but in the moment I was drawn to grasp the blue pastels.  The pink up-and-down mimics my internal ups and downs, one moment feeling positive and a part of something, the next feeling absolutely alone and without anything meaningful to offer.
A detail -- some of the conflict in direction - can I grasp onto the positive energy, or will I collapse inward?
One of the positive things I got to do today was borrow a car to go to the nearby town and explore a little bit.  I went to an awesome nursery/tackle/feed store and got some interesting, articulate interviews with the owner and her children.  I also had a fun conversation with the owner of the town's grocery store, in which he described how Hayden is special because everyone knows everyone else, and you can feel safe about your kids walking around because you know everyone cares about them.
Here is my impression of the drive from ranch to town, several steps removed from reality:
Just my remembered vision of the road, the farms, the grasses and some herds of cows.
That's about it for today.  Oh, one more positive note - I worked with the other artists and the daughter of the ranch managers to move a huge pile of trimmed cottonwood tree branches from where we'd left them in the middle of the garden to the graveyard for discarded leftovers behind the barn.  It was hard physical work, and the cooperative effort helped me want to be awake for the rest of the day.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Day 1 Color Impressions

So I don't consider myself a painter at all, and I don't often draw or sketch much of anything, but during my last week in San Diego I was introduced to a liberating expressive art studio, where people gather to collectively create with color.  Otto and Raquel and I attended an 'Art Lunch', for which people bring their lunch and set themselves free with paint collectively on a huge shared piece of paper taped to the wall.  I enjoyed it enough that I went back for an individual expressive art therapy session, focussed on my decision whether or not to come to this residency.  I made a large, colorful, chaotic painting, half relating to my feelings about coming to Colorado and half about the possibility of not coming, and what that might mean.
Obviously I decided to come, and I further decided I wanted to use this tool of uninhibited color application as part of my process for dealing with my complicated emotions, and for getting to know the ranch and coming into relationship with the physical environment.  This is what I made on my first full day here:

This is my impression of my internal feelings:  intense anxiety and fear, yet making a heroic effort to contain myself and begin to look beyond my inner turmoil to the excitement and possibilities of being here.
A detail of the same drawing.  I am using chalk pastels as an initial layer and then adding details with oil pastels.
Another detail - my father asked me what color my anxiety might be, so here it came out orange with purple chaotic energetic impulses, against a ground of black.

This is the second color impression for the day, a simple observation of the view outside the window of the studio: grasses, a fence, and a sky hung with some heavy clouds.  It doesn't look like much, but that's not the point.  The point is that drawing it brought me into closer relationship with the ranch environment, and forced me to make some more detailed observations than I would have otherwise.  I also found the process of spreading the color on the page helped distract from and calm my raging anxiety.
A detail of the road, grasses, and the wooden post fence.  I really enjoyed smearing the chalk pastels with my fingers and then attacking the paper with the oil pastels.
A detail of the sky.  This morning the sky was almost completely blue, but by the time I was studying it in the early afternoon some clouds heavy with rain were gathering in different spots.  It still looked mostly fair, and I was surprised to get caught in a shower when I took a walk.  Drawing these clouds and taking that walk both taught me something about the variability and unpredictability of the skies here.  Pay attention to the darkness in the corners!

Day One on Carpenter Ranch - Getting to Know some Hay Bales

First of all, I admit to lingering terror about being here at all.  Apparently we (the three artists) are each expected to make a 35-40 minute presentation at a community event on September 24, and I have no idea what I will say/show/present.  There is no connector for my computer to the projector, so unless I find a technical solution I won't be able to present video, which I had been thinking could be a central element of what I will do here this month.
However, I decided that rather then focus on this gaping hole of fear inside me I would shift towards the external environment, so I set off across the ranch with my pack full of notebook, camera, video-camera and tripod.  What would I see?  What could I find to think about in a positive way?
Suddenly out of nowhere the sky opened up and I was caught in a rainstorm with no protection.    What luck!  I ran through the tall grass and ducked under a shelter for gigantic round hay bales.
I had some time to appreciate the aesthetic form of these hay bales - they are substantial in size, each taller than I am, yet they are somewhat fragile, and could be torn apart with not much effort.  They are a good example of the interconnection Thich Nhat Hanh talks about:  the bales represent a lot of energy, all that went into growing the grass that became the hay; the sun, the rain, and the minerals and nutrients in the soil.  Then they also contain all the energy that went into harvesting the hay, processing it into bales and transporting it to this storage area - all the human energy, plus the fossil fuel to power the machinery used.
And here the bales sit, beautiful to look at, waiting to take their next steps to complete their destiny to supply energy to cows or other livestock.  Their circular form is a perfect reminder of their participation in a cycle of production and the perpetuation of life.