“The call is to leave a certain social situation, move into your own loneliness and find the jewel, the center that’s impossible to find when you’re socially engaged. You are thrown off-center, and when you feel off-center, it is time to go…
When you cross the threshold, you are passing into the dark forest, taking a plunge into the sea, embarking upon a night sea journey… This is Jonah swallowed by the whale, its jaws being the pairs of opposites.” ~ Joseph Campbell, Reflections of the Art of Living
It feels overly dramatic, and yet not, to say that I feel like I am on a boat, unmoored, sailing away to an unknown destination. The hero’s journey is an often cited metaphor for the artist’s vision, the reason being that being an artist feels very much like one is on a journey, both internally in the mind and externally in the world. For this reason, I often feel like I do not “fit in” with the non-artist world. It makes sense that I would go for an artist residency to a foreign place, someplace that takes me off-center. I have crossed into the threshold, as Campbell describes.
My discomfort is at times palpable. I feel very “off,” out of my body, awkward, and naive. Usually when I feel uncertain, I dive in with doing rather than being. But I have to be in order to do in this situation, so I continue on, following the thread wherever it takes me.
The thread took me to the studio yesterday. I dove into the art-making in order to flesh out the imagery in my mind. I began working on paper, painting and drawing my observations, but then quickly moved onto unstretched canvas, where, to my surprise, the shapes of boats began to emerge. These pieces are not finished yet, and need more time, but the beginnings of an idea are there.
Colors are washing over me. Pale blues, minty teals, bright yellows, vivid greens, soft pinks, a range of grays, subtle browns and beiges, and dark tones of slate and navy blue. I see glints in my mind’s eye, colors glistening off the reflections of land, water and sky.
Today I hiked down to the beach at Mwnt, and picked up driftwood and seaweed, bringing them back with me to work with. I made prints with the seaweed, and painted onto the driftwood. Setting these aside, I started the process of bundle-dyeing the fabric pieces I brought from Colorado, scattering my foraged flowers, damsons and leaves across the fabric before rolling and tying it up, simmering it in water for an hour. Tomorrow I will unroll the bundles and discover what I made. An apt metaphor for what I am doing here.
Everyday feels like a magical journey. Or a fantasy that I made up. Am I really on some sort of inner journey? Or is this just a silly vacation?
It is fitting to me that Campbell references the story of Jonah and the whale. I feel very much like I am in the belly of the beast. I do not know what will come through when I am forced to emerge from this world.