It's the latter half of April, and here in Western New York there are snowflakes falling outside my studio window. Again. It's cold and damp, and I'm finally back home from preschool pickups and dentist appointments. My feet are cold, and my nose is sniffly, and I've buried in my warmest sweater, a cup of tea and two pairs of socks. I can't get warm. I'm miserable and angsty in a way only a northerner faced with a spiteful unending winter can sympathize with. I'm grouchy, because I just want winter to be over, so I can plant seeds and open the windows and welcome back the sun.
But truthfully, a part of me is also enjoying this last bit of forced solitude. It's almost as though winter is holding us close just a little while longer; that the darkness isn't quite done with us yet. Maybe Mother Nature's healing sleep hasn't produced enough of a recovery, and needs some more time too, to heal and rest for what lies ahead. (Who else can relate?) So I guess I'm good with this.
Isn't that what winter is for, after all? To regroup, to go within, and rest, and dream. I've been working with shadows this winter, and exploring darkness through new work and medium, and I'm slowly amassing a personal body of work that tells my stories. And hopefully, I am also amassing, along the way, the confidence to share these stories with others. I could probably use a little more time, myself. But for now, it's time to move on to spring, and that means new things. And sunshine and new show schedules and Collaborweave 2.0.
But first, I have to muster up the nerve to share Collaborweave 1.0. Which is actually a lot harder than I thought it would be, not because of the piece, but because I'm having a hard time finding the right words to use to express how much I love what this piece has come to mean for me. If you don't know what Collaborweave actually is, you can read about it here in last July's blog post, Weaving a Dream.
When I first birthed this idea, I simply wanted to share. I wanted to stimulate new interest in the fiber arts in a non-intimidating way, and having spent so much of my own life in a place of suspended creative limbo, I hoped that by sharing an art form in this way, I might encourage those who would otherwise be intimidated by full engagement in creative endeavor. I was looking way to involve other people in what it means to be a part of a craft, an art form; to discover the joy of creating with their hands.
When there is no expectation, there is no fear of failure. A project like this, in short, allows each person to contribute as much or as little as speaks to them. Each person's small contribution cumulatively leads to a larger work that they would never be able to create on their own. Such is the beauty of effective collaboration, both in art and in interpersonal cooperation.
It's a metaphor, baby. Yeah. Can ya dig it?
Pretty, huh? This collective composition represents 20 different people's additions, most of whom have never tried to weave (outside of cardboard grade school experiments, of course!). I know that at least one of these new fiber friends was inspired enough by her participation to have bought a loom and is exploring the art form on her own.
I finally took it down off the loom this month and finished off my last contribution; the last few inches. I tied it off, and framed it, using a handmade frame that my brothers made together, the last summer before Joe set off west to follow my mom to a new life in Oregon. I've had that frame knocking around my house for ten years now, unable to find a print that I liked enough to put in it, but unable to let it go. I thought it a fitting finishing touch.
I settled on “Horizons” as a name, after calling it "Push the Sky" for months, for a number of different reasons. As the composition progressed throughout last summer and fall, and the various elements began to meld together, they began to create an accidental imagery that reminded me of the big bright blue sky and green tree lines and cloud banks that run from frothy white to churning gray August thunderstorms that, for me, capture the spirit of wipe open, free summer, where anything goes and anything is possible.
This beauty sat unfinished all winter, and I'd ponder it often, when I needed a break from the dark cathartic stuff that's been taking up most of my creative real estate. It was an odd juxtaposition, this unabashedly pretty thing right next to all that dark.
But as my perspective evolved, it made more and more sense, and the aesthetic imagery began to organize itself into something more salient...a statement on a larger thought, began form. What do Horizons, the place where earth meets air, represent? Well, air, yes, and open skies, and the promise of adventure. I grew up on a farm on to top of a huge hill. I was unhappy, and a dreamer. You could see for miles...I am no stranger to staring off into the distance and wondering what's out there.
Horizons call up that universal thirst for "something more" that must exist just beyond the reach of where we live, figuratively as well as literally.
They remind me of the new opportunities and the broadening of personal horizons that happen when you learn new things and participate in something that opens you up. All that potential that the great wide open sky represents exists within us as well as in the world without, and the strumming magic of possibility, like when the heat of high summer makes that line where earth and sky meet shimmer, exists within us too.
So this piece isn't just pretty. It's a lovely punctuation point for how the spirit of collaboration with others can create something greater than what just you yourself are capable of on your own.
When you consider that I curated the elements for this piece when I had the differences between the natural world that we live in and the worlds we construct around ourselves on my mind, this is pretty amazing stuff. With my tiny baby artist mindset, I had wanted to highlight the division between these two concepts, and contemplate how our constructs both protect us and entrap us. Today I sit here humbled by and fascinated with the realization that instead of highlighting those divisions like I intended, the very act of community participation in this experiment melted any hint of division away and become something completely fluid; the opposite of limitation - union. Alchemy.
This piece is a living breathing testament to what's possible when we come together and give a little bit without worrying about whether the outcome is what we want it to be. When we let what is right in that moment guide us, and trust our instincts, and that that rightness of the process will work its way out in the end.
In tarot, the element of Air is associated with intellect and open mindedness, and growth through logic and higher reasoning. And justice. Lots of justice and idealism. So all in all, I think we might have made something pretty spectacular last year.
I think how this concept is relevant to a larger sense right now really speaks for itself, and I don't think any commentary from me is necessary. So, I'll check my tongue, and be silent. You do what you will with that. Go ahead...Roll around in it. Play with it a little bit. Explore your headspace. It's some pretty heady stuff.
So here's to Collaborweave 2017 : Expanding Horizons, and breaking barriers through community art. You can see it in person at the MUSEjar April 27, at East Aurora's Spring Art Walk. If you contributed to Horizons, I hope you stop by. I would love to see you again, so I can arrange a print of the finished work for you as a thank you for making this possible.
I'll also be taking this opportunity to kick off 2018's Collaborweave and open it up, inside MUSEjar. I'm enamored with the thought of exploring each element with an eye to how each one's natures fits within this project, and impacts the meaning behind community collaboration, so this year's composition revolves around Fire and Flame. The curated elements I've chosen incorporate the colors of fire and the bright light of the sun, against the backdrop of shades of gray and neutrality. As an element, fire represents drive and action. Change. Fire burns, and cleanses. I'm loving the idea that this could be an exploration of Fire as a metaphor for personal and social change; burning through our blind spots and the qualifications we use that allow systems of oppression to thrive because no one can see them clearly through the gray areas that our personal biases create.
Fire is destructive, but in laying the land bare, it shows the landscape for what it truly is. It makes way for new life, and burns away illusions. New paradigms can rise from that clarity, just as tiny new trees sprout from the devastation of forest fires. For me, it feels like fierce change will be a pretty idea to ponder for 2018. I hope you'll explore this with me. Come weave with us and #beapartofit!