Low Language

 

Ebb and Flow

This morning, I ventured into the pool for some running laps. It’s an odd practice, and insanely boring. I strapped on a blue floaty device and worked hard to “run” down the lap lane and back. A single session seems to have loosened things up in my hip and leg and provided some decent core work. My physical therapist has banned running for two weeks, so I’m focusing on cross training and building up strength in my abs, gluts, and hamstrings; hopefully, in two weeks I’ll be running without pain.  It’s become clear to me that there is an ebb and flow to running, and that the smartest runners trust the cycle without trying to push through it.

In pondering the ebb and flow of my first year of running,  I’ve been reflecting on the week that I spent at Anderson Ranch in Colorado, working with artist Enrique Martinez Celaya. In addition to a week of rigorous dialogue and painting, I had hoped that running at a 9100 foot elevation would strengthen my lungs. I did manage some very pokey running, but I was breathless and dizzy going up hills. There was minimal improvement over the week. Oddly, when I returned East, expecting to have the lungs of an Amazon, I struggled for over a week to get back into my groove.

Low Language

The main focus of the Colorado trip was artistic critique, and the week of dialogue with Enrique was transformative. I located some of the tensions in my work: grit vs seduction, being precious vs profound, concealing vs revealing, using mystery vs coyness, and much more. I saw newly where I manage these tensions in the work and where they fall flat. Throughout the session Enrique encouraged us (a group of 9 artists, mostly professors desperate for a week of focused art time) to consider how our lives and art are interwoven. He was direct. What’s wrong with your work is what’s wrong with your life. Look for the ways that you lie to yourself about your work, and your life. Look at your studio, your resume, and your relationships; be honest about what they indicate about your commitments. We tend to develop fictions about our artwork and ourselves as artists. Enrique pointed out that sometimes language creates a structural lie between an artist and her/his work. He encouraged us to use “low language” in order to “open the curtain.” To take this on is a powerful and revealing exercise. Strip away all the academic jargon and see what’s there. The bottom line is another reminder, like my in flight epiphany (in the first post): look at my life, be honest about where my energy is going, and be straight with myself about where I’m making decisions out of convenience.

Note Enrique Martinez Celaya’s current show, The Hunt’s Will, at LA Louver  in Los Angeles.

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About lucindasrunningblog

Lucinda is an artist and teacher whose work focused on landscape and place. Bliss currently serves as Dean of Graduate Studies at the New Hampshire Institute of Art.
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4 Responses to Low Language

  1. mmwm says:

    The grit v seduction opposition isn’t obvious, as an opposition, to me. Can you say more about that one?

  2. I’ll try. It’s a huge question. During the week with Enrique, I realized that the grit in my work is often hidden–that in some cases, it’s the seduction (materials, beauty, sweetness) that carries more visual weight. Yet the concerns are there in the work, and I’ve always loved the idea that they unfold over time rather than punch immediately. The tension of grit vs. seduction is a place of inquiry in the current work.
    In some of my drawings, birds and other creatures float precariously and in strange alliances–place has ceased to make sense for them. This is a gritty truth, if one applies it to real world environmental degradation. And there’s grit if one considers the feeling of placelessness as personal narrative–as a reflection of human experience. Art often speaks grit so directly that it comes across, to me, as familiar and dead rather than poignant. Like many artistic problems, what I imagine I might be able to do in balancing grit and seduction might be impossible, but the process is generating some interesting results.
    The tension might be more overt in the Vulcan’s Net series, and a number of those pieces can be found on my website: (http://lucindabliss.com/art/2012/9_vulcansnet1.htm). From my statement: “I began by perusing Ovid’s Metamorphoses in search of narratives of desire, and I discovered a myth in which Ares and Venus, god and goddess of war and love, are ensnared in a tryst by Vulcan’s finely forged bronze net. I extracted the net from this narrative, along with a sense of recognition of the hungers, and humor, of the classical gods and their relationship to humanity. In the drawings, Vulcan’s handiwork reveals, or perhaps facilitates, a transformation in the figure. It forms a visual articulation of the sweetness, violence, and entanglement of desire.” Do grit and seduction exist there? I’ll be working it out for a while…fortunately, since being an artist is the most fun when there’s a good visual and conceptual problem to crunch away on!

  3. mmwm says:

    Thanks, Lucinda. This makes sense to me: “In some of my drawings, birds and other creatures float precariously and in strange alliances–place has ceased to make sense for them. This is a gritty truth, if one applies it to real world environmental degradation. And there’s grit if one considers the feeling of placelessness as personal narrative–as a reflection of human experience.” I was going to say that I struggle with a sense of placelessness, homelessness — but I don’t think I do struggle with it. I’m just not rooted. Re Vulcan’s net, it seems to function perhaps a bit as a veil (with all the “veiled lady” connotations) that — back to another of your oppositions — conceals and reveals, expresses something about identity.

  4. Yes, you’ve articulated that well. As for being rooted, you have a remarkable ability to be pragmatic about self-realization, among other things. I toss and turn about things much too readily. 🙂

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