“Beauty is an experience influenced by our senses and culture, but not by intellectual context…The sublime, though, is something different; it is an aesthetic appreciation that goes beyond our observation of an individual insect or bird and that instead contextualizes observations in light of a broader understanding.” Rob Dunn Never Home Alone.
I am not saying that my art is sublime, but when I read this passage by ecologist Rob Dunn in his book Never Home Alone, I thought that it’s just what I try to do with my art.
Whenever I’m creating, anything from a potholder to a fabric painting, I am not just trying to make something pleasing to look at. I’m putting into that piece the history and stories of the fabric I use, the tradition of “women’s work”, quilt making and whatever it was that inspired me to create it, including books I’ve read both fiction and non-fiction, things I’ve observed on my walks in the woods, news of the day, conversation with people on-line and off, and my own personal experience as a human and artist.
I picture it as a funnel.All the different parts going in and getting compressed into something that is beautiful and comprehensible.
And the beauty is important to me. Because it pulls the viewer in, makes them want to take a closer look and then maybe think about it more. But beauty is also important to me, because it’s what I want to put our into the world.
It’s the layers, the content, that makes the difference to me.
And I always leave space for the mystery. I do this by not over planning. But by listening to the piece and allowing it to take me where it wants to go.
My best pieces are the ones that surprise me. The ones that I look at after I’m done and see something that I didn’t know I had put into it. Or the things that someone tells me about that I wasn’t aware of.
Dunn writes “I find the unknown and yet-to-be discovered as raw and thrilling as is the magnitude of the universe.” And he’s talking about the unknown, not in distant places, but literally the microbes and insects that live in our own homes.
That’s what I feel when I walk into my studio each morning. The thrill of the yet-to-be discovered.