Saturday, May 18, 2024

Lightening in a Jar

This photo was taken twenty five years ago during the Bard College Graduation/Reunion Weekend. It was 1999 and I was 45 years old. Ancient.

Okay, now that I’m 70 it seems young, but at the time I felt ancient. 

No matter. I put on my leopard dress and danced to the music!

I twirled and laughed and shook and shimmied. I had a candy-apple red streak in my hair and you can see how the flashing red in the background fuses with the red in my hair and catches the light.

This is a moment in time, never to be repeated.

And it's also a metaphor for art-making. We work and work. Many days are uneventful and it feels as if we’re getting nowhere. We clean our brushes and go for long walks. Or we feed the baby and clean out the garage. We make lots of missteps. We are clumsy. Still, we are also learning new steps. And so we keep going, day after day like that. Then winter arrives and it’s cold and rainy. We’re stuck inside and nothing changes.

But, suddenly--a flash. A revelation. We face the sunlight and we squint and leap forward toward the light, turning and dipping and weaving. We race ahead, following our instincts. Everything is illuminated in this exquisite moment. Finally, we catch all the epiphanies we can gather in our hands and put them in a jar.

We think we understand what we are doing. We think that making art is about this catching and gathering and keeping a jar filled with light. We think that once we’ve captured this light it will last forever. But the next morning, we look at the window sill by our bed, only to realize that our jar is empty and our epiphany has flown away. Gone. Seemingly forever.

But, Creative Friends—you will square your shoulders, you will take a step forward and you will begin your dance with the darkness once again, knowing the light there--somewhere—waiting to be captured as if for the very first time. This is the never-ending dance between the artist and the art.

Friends--Know that your epiphany will fly into your reach. Know too, that no one can truly capture transcendence in a jar.

But keep hope alive. Always. And keep dancing in the dark.



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