07 August 2007

An Examination of Transcendence

Okay, my Artist Statement says "I am an interdisciplinary artist examining the transcendent in the light of the connection between the ancient and the contemporary."

So, how does one examine the space between the ancient and the contemporary in the light of the transcendent?


Much of my work has its origins in the ancient or traditional. It is inspired by the everyday articles that were created to make survival easier, ritual meaningful and environs pleasurable. There is a continuity to be found in working with fiber, with sculpture and with story that springs from their antiquity as focal points for human activities. This continuity both informs my practice and is expressed in my work, sometimes becoming the message of a piece or the vehicle for the message. An examination of the historical context of the work of fiberists – my word for the individuals that create articles (decorative, household, personal, industrial) using weaving, felting, sewing, knitting, et cetera – has become a significant part of my praxis as well as one of the inspirations for my personal theory of art, helping me frame my position that art is giving ideas shape. I don’t believe that having a practical use prohibits an article from being art. I have seen exhilarating, breath-taking weavings that could have been used for a number of practical purposes, and probably were. Purpose is as much “in the eye of the beholder” as beauty.

Examining the practical, utilitarian aspects of fiber work allows me to bring this aspect of the craft into my practice, both as a study of methods and as inspiration for contemporary work. I am most interested in the artifacts and techniques used to create them, from earliest known examples through pre-industrial revolution fiber work.

I think that one aspect of the exploration of the transcendent relates to Time – chromos time versus kairos-time – or time as moment-to-moment and time as eternal. Madeline L’Engle has the best explanation that I’ve run across:
Kairos. Real time…That time which breaks through chronos with a shock of joy, that time which we do not recognize while we are experiencing it, but only afterwards, because kairos has nothing to do with chronological time. In kairos we are completely unselfconscious, and yet paradoxically far more real than we can ever be when we’re constantly checking our watches for chronological time… The saint in contemplation, lost to self in the mind of God is in kairos. The artist at work is in kairos. The child at play, totally thrown outside herself in the game, be it building a sand castle or making a daisy chain, is in kairos. In kairos we become what we are called to be as human beings... (Walking on Water 109)
A friend of mine explained how she sees kairos time – God’s Time she calls it. Her explanation revolved around one of the spiralcut magnets from my practicum. She picked up the spiral from the centermost point. The spiral spread out vertically, resembling a curving, sloped walkway up a very pointed mountain. “Here,” she said, pointing to a given spot on the climb. “Here is where your great-great-grandmother was born, and here is where she died. And here,” as she pointed to a spot farther down the spiral, “is where you were born. This place on the spiral represents your allotted time. This is chronological time, time as we know it. But this, this is God’s time.” And she promptly dropped the spiral flat, flat onto the table top, reducing it to a two-dimensional plane. “In God’s time it’s all one. You always were, your great-great-grandmother always was, from the beginning to the end in God’s mind.”

I’m not a religious person. I don’t go to any church, haven’t been to one since racing motorcycles became more interesting than Sunday school, back in seventh grade, but her explanation struck some sort of chord in me, something that has resonated, deep inside, coming to the surface at odd times... I’ve wondered, ever since that simple but profound illustration, if we sometimes skip across the void, skimming into times outside of our own allotted time like a flat stone thrown skipping across the river. Could that be the source of our strangest dreams, the sudden inspiration, the feeling of déjà vu and those unexplained moments of utter calm or utter terror?


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