November 24, 2013

Lost in the Laundry

Pete Seeger once said that music does more than get people through rough times. Music helps us, and I am paraphrasing here, understand pain and begin to do something about it. One could easily substitute the more general word “art” for music to incorporate all art forms that may have this capacity.

I recently thought of the possible healing power (or I suppose coping through understanding power) of art on the occasion of a dream recently and one from the past. If any dream could be a portent of things to come, a dream I had a few years ago about meeting a Zen monk most assuredly would be. In that dream I was walking along a path in the countryside and came across a zen monk with long black hair and a long black beard. He had his arms and legs neatly folded in a meditative pose. When I asked him for a bit of advice on my art he replied that I should paint the terrible and paint the ugly but make every mark beautiful. I asked him if this meant that I should be detached from the subject matter or if I should be confronting it in an attached way. The monk looked serenely off into the distance and replied, “It is difficult to say.” That last phrase was something I often heard while in China so it was not surprising that it was imbedded somewhere in my unconscious ripe and at the ready for dream pickings.

I thought about that first dream after I had a decidedly unpleasant nightmare due most likely to the bouts of vertigo and headaches from my illness. I had a sick dream to match. In this unwelcome nightmare I lifted the lid on a washing machine and saw my own head spinning around in the laundry. Dream logic being what it is, there was no problem with how, being without a head, I was able to see this apparition. Nevertheless the image stuck with me and I decided to make an art work out of it based upon the advice of my dreamland Zen monk. But how to make something hideous beautiful? I decided to make a mosaic that kept with the laundry and the floating head theme only creating something ambiguous and gem like rather than ghoulish. The head I used in the mosaic was made from a cast that I taken earlier from a porcelain doll. I painted this with underglaze colors and a clear shiny overglaze. I then created thin folded pieces out of earthenware clay and painted them to look like towels or other fabrics. The small fragments of very colorful fabric designs with gold enameling were the remains of a ceramic dress that I broken a few years ago when I dropped the mosaic that it was embedded in. I was happy to have an opportunity to recycle this. For the background of this mosaic I felt that should use washing machine watery substances. The strings of pearls and glass beads function as bubbles and the iridized green glass as detergent waters. I put everything together and named the piece “Lost in the Laundry.” Anything can be lost in this laundry....a sock, a dress, towels, a head or two. But can they be found again and made sense of now that the dream is a concrete reality?

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