I currently have the benefit of having lived 60 years. I also have accumulation of stuff, as witness and compounded during this lifetime. Yikes, a lot of stuff. The possessions I question most are the tangible testimony of my attempts at making art. I view it as a problem mostly. The process of creating is where it all happens, and then we have this stuff left over.
I have never approached art as a commercial venture. Rather a process of self discovery and the process works in parallel with my spiritual journey. Both expanding and contracting according to the laws of the universe.
My painting studio is very small. It is a stand alone building, created in the 1980’s. I built it and still need to put a board, shingle or something here and there to call it complete, but that is another story. A few days ago I had a compulsion to open a plastic bin which contained drawings from a particularly productive period in regards to drawing. Once the top was lifted, a mouse looked up at me with big black eyes. She didn’t have enough spring to jump out, so I assisted her with a stick. As she kept leaping upward, I caught her with a stick an propelled her out, onto the floor and into hiding.
After examining the content it was clear she has built a nest in the box of drawings. At first I was very disappointed to see so much shredded content. I put some gloves on and began removing the nest, comprised of canvas and paper, the work I had imagined was safe. Quickly, I uncovered two infant mice, hairless with rapid heartbeats. They were too small to move, helpless. Two thoughts entered my mind at once. Watching my friend Brad Webber killing mice in his his garden with a spade shovel and how carefully the Dali Lama described excavating ground for a monastery. The monks refused to step on an insect.
I needed a break, so decided to go into the house and make some tea. I conferred with my wife Sandra. Either of us are fans of mice. But I couldn’t go kill them, somehow. So I went back into the studio and made a makeshift nest for them from the materials I removed from the box of drawings. I also set a mouse trap under the wood stove which was the most difficult thing to come to terms with.
Feeling good and bad, I proceeded with my intention of rediscovering the box of drawings. There was much shredded material which included the edges of many drawings. The drawings were laid one upon another and at first the damage seemed significant. I pulled them all out and onto the floor. I cleaned out the plastic tub and began putting them back, one drawing at a time. The drawings that were dated were either 1984 or 1985. Many were not dated or signed. The ones I thought were worthy I scribbled my initials on the backs of.
The damage to the contents of the plastic bin wasn’t as severe as it originally appeared. The mouse had collected much material from other places and it looked like, brought them into the bin. As I looked at each drawing, some were very familiar and some I did not recognize. These drawing were the result of a process that had occurred about 35 years ago. They weren’t so much different from the results of my process today. In fact, some of the drawings that were damaged by the mice, I put in a pile and look forward to reworking them into collages, maybe like the ones seen here.
This discovery of the mice and the vulnerability of my drawings has caused me to wonder about further detachment from objects. After all, what benefit do these things provide hidden away in boxes? Yes, they provide the opportunity for mice and I do admit, I derived satisfaction from revisiting this time in my life. One or two years out of art school, living isolated in the woods, Sandra and I having no idea what today would look like back then.