Hearing Voices

chains #2

I have not had time to write much lately. My work has been in two art shows in the past six weeks. Writing and creating art come out of two very different places in me and though it seems like self-expression is self-expression, I have really missed writing and am having a difficult time reconnecting to the rhythm of it. The element that is the same for me in writing and art is the experience of working alone for extended periods of time while paying close attention to whatever that inner voice or impulse is that most artists seem to experience. I find when I am writing my mind is more involved in the process and gets caught up in the details of sorting, and choosing, and creating an order. Visual art engages my mind differently and I am not really sure how to describe it. My work is at its best when my mind and intuitive impulses are working together. Having a show is an entirely different experience. Part of the process of honoring and celebrating the gift of the work is showing it and sharing it. It is bizarre to work in isolation for an extended period of time and then throw open the doors and invite others to come in. It feels like I have uncovered my soul, put it on paper and served it up for scrutiny. It is jarring to go from a deep solitary creative space into a public reception for all of the obvious reasons. It is also difficult because it stirs up lingering inner voices from my childhood that admonish me for being on an ego trip, encourage me to remain invisible, and shush my exuberance and enthusiasm.

The creative process at its core is not about making something that others will like, but knowing that does not make it any easier to suspend the hope that others will like it, (and by extension me) and that it will sell. The entire experience is confusing. As a show nears I fall into a frenzy of preparation, completion, and anticipation.  As I work to finish all of my pieces it is difficult to hold onto the awareness that what is important is finishing my work, not getting it just right so that others will like it and buy it.

Unexpectedly, I sold quiet a bit of work at these last two shows to people other than my friends and family. I also found this confusing. I am not complaining.  It feels amazing to sell work.  I am confused because the work that sold was not my “important” work. In the last few years I have been playing around with creating wind chimes and mobile out of rusted metal objects that I have found on my property. Something discarded, old, and rusty, seems to come to the surface or tumble down into our creek beds after every rain. I have found old pipe, fused scissors, bent hinges, sheets of copper, spools of wire, and a rusty can opener.  I have discovered that rebar and old silverware makes the most beautiful sound when it knocks against itself or other objects in the wind.  I do not know how I began making these pieces. I do not remember what the first one was. I did not think of wind chimes as art when I began, and did not take pictures or keep track of my work. I thought I was just keeping my hands busy and fitting pieces together while I tried to recover after the illness and death of my son. I found making them distracting and fun. I thought of it as basket weaving. The pieces themselves were both musical and whimsical and I loved making art out of materials that I found and that were free.

I have always loved rusted metal. At one time I had a rusted metal garden by my studio. Once, when I went on a medicine walk, I inexplicable found myself in front of an ancient rusted heap of abandoned machinery in the middle of an otherwise pristine landscape. I sat with it and admired it for a long long time. I am not sure exactly what it is about rusted metal that I respond to. Perhaps it is that weather and time have left their mark on its surface and begun to reclaim it for the earth.  As I approached my second show this spring I began to run out of materials and wondered if this project was coming to an end. After my first show I literally stubbed my toe on a buried piece of an old clutch in my pasture and knew that I had more mobiles to make. Now, with the rainy season over, and new old materials harder to find, I began to feel that this work had run its course. Because I went into this show feeling like these were my last pieces, I was surprised when they sold so well and even more surprised when two gallery owners approached me and asked me if I would be interested in showing my mobiles in their galleries.

What now?  Do I listen to the inner voice that feels finished with this work or accept the outer invitation. Is the voice that feels done one to pay attention to, or is it a critical voice left over from my childhood that can’t see the value in this work because it does not “look like art”? I had been sitting with these questions when a friend I have a playful and innocent flirtation with showed up this week with a large pair of fused, bent, rusty, sheers that he had found in a creek bed.  They were heart wrenchingly beautiful and perhaps the sexiest gift I have ever received. I responded to them so deeply and spontaniously that I could have stripped off that man’s clothes right then and there in the middle of my driveway. A few days later a close friend who is a potter sent me a photo of a sculpture he had made using a bit of rusty barbed wire I had given him during our last show.  He wrote that the piece had sold instantly and attracted a surprising amount of attention. He has begun to stop at abandoned farmhouses and walk along railroad tracks, searching for more rusted and discarded bits to use in his work. He and I have been showing together for a few years but now suddenly our work has entered into a dialogue: rust, light, discarded objects, transformation and the feminine. Last night I went to an opening at one of the galleries that is interested in my work and found myself in a room full of art made with discarded and abandoned materials. The artists in the room felt like lost members of my tribe.

My path feels clearer today. These are different signs and messages than the ones I receive from animals but I think for now I have my answer. I need to dig around and work with uncovered bits of discarded material and try to fit them together so that they can dance with light and make music with the wind for a little while longer. This work is not yet finished.

6 comments to Hearing Voices

  • Dear Marlene,

    You, who you are, your becoming
    your work, your soul
    you have come in
    my heart
    it is here, within
    I smile
    you a beautiful soul.

    Ann Garrett

  • Gilda

    Making something beautiful from what has been thrown away, is a high form of what can be called Transformational Art. These bits and pieces of rusted metal and the random colors from glass beads that you assemble, have a magical quality when a breeze catches them and makes the mobile dance and turn like a suspended ballerina.
    I am a fan..

  • Marlene,
    Stopped over from my sister’s (Amy Weisberg) blog. I read about the baby birds and was compelled to go back into the posts to read more. I too collect “rusted stuff” on my walks. I am preparing to explore the rusting of fabric as I’ve been interested in it for so long (saw a great rust artist in a show at Viva Art Gallery many years back! http://www.vivaartcenter.org/). At the completion of a quilted wall hanging inspired by the mudslide in La Conchita of 2005, I added a found, rusted wood–drill bit. All these years I have not even been sure why I did that, except now as I type this, it comes to me as the juxtaposition of what man creates verses the creations of Mother Nature.
    Sorry got carried away there!
    Anyway, I found it interesting (not really knowing you) that in the third paragraph you speak of the wind chimes not even being your ‘important’ work and then go on to say that you began making them while recovering from the illness/death of your son (I am so sorry for your loss). Right away I thought…but of course…these wind chimes ARE ‘important’ work/pieces…they are Healing Work/Pieces. Their process and expression came to you in a time (may I assume Great Time) of need. You speak of their distraction and fun and them being “both musical and whimsical “…all of this for Free!!! What a deal! And it came to you…the idea of it…the making of them…at a very important time. Perhaps they bring some of that story, that history, even that healing to those that purchase them.
    As for relating that stated importance to ‘basket weaving’…don’t even get me started!!! Haha. But I have a friend that once begun a ‘life project’ by working in an ongoing, continuing fashion on a ‘Life Basket’.
    Now I am off to see more of your work and words…
    Thank you for sharing,

    • Marlene

      Thank you for sharing!. I enjoyed looking at your blog and seeing your work. I have come to see the wind chimes as important work. I appreciate your insight.

  • Hare Goldware-Sorkin

    Dear Marlene–

    Enjoyed your experience/insight about found metal and wind chimes. I find rusted and aged broken metal and glass here at La Ferme, sometimes on the ground’s surface, sometimes buried and transformed by the elements. But the transformation is not just visual to visual–The visual gets released in the sounds when the pieces come together as they crash and clash and kiss. How __________ to bring such pieces and their sounds to share with people losing their vision–sight perception getting replaced by more intense sound perception. I will be visiting my 94-year-old aunt this morning and will look for something sound-producing to bring her. Thank you for your inspiration to think in these terms.

    • Marlene

      i love the idea of transformed old rusted materials being used to bring beautiful sounds to transformed old people. that is an inspired idea. m

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