I’ve been working really steadily in the studio the last few weeks, and that doesn’t seem to be letting up any time soon. I did take a lovely break this past weekend to attend a good chunk of the Edmonton Folk Music Festival – which was delightful – but even then, I put in several hours in the studio on Thursday and on Friday in advance of going to the evening sessions.
It’s the ‘last push’ in preparations before the October Residency exhibition, in which NEST will see the light of day as an organized body of work (well, at least, it’s my sincere hope it will be an organized and coherent body of work … let’s put it that way!) The exhibition opens on October 18th – and while on one hand, that seems like a relatively long time in the future, in actuality, it’s the blink of an eye. It takes so much time to make work … time and energy and thought, and some of that effort is emotional as well, to be honest, and so really can’t be rushed. Nor would I want to rush any of this work – not the process, nor the result in each piece.
Of course, throughout the process of creating this work – well before I actually began making anything, truth to tell – I had much to reflect on and think about: the ideas that spurred the project were (to me at least) fascinating, and remain so to this day. But that’s just the starting point: the intellectual and conceptual fuel as it were. What the project has become is also a deeply personal journey; a combination of archaeology, discovery, and letting go.
I am quite struck with just how autobiographical the work has become – quite directly so. It is not in any way lost on me that my continued interest in the intersections and conflicts between the competing narratives of memory, history, and the social construction of identity has a direct and enduring relationship to my own personal lived experience. Yes, I know, an obvious thing – but the depth of that understanding and grasping the enduring nature of that questioning is something very new. Identity and its relationship to security – to one’s sense of home and the stories and memories that come out of that first nest – can be slippery things indeed.
Whether we admit it to ourselves and the rest of the world or not, the archetypal nest is a home for the heart. We all seek that emotional space that we understand to be stable – permanent, even – in the face of ‘life’, which is really simply shorthand for continual process and all the change that it embodies. It is an old truism that ‘home’ is not a place per se – that as individuals, we contain it or hold it somehow within mind and memory. So it is at once visceral and primal – and utterly abstract. We have need of the refuge it supplies on every level of survival imaginable … . Because the enormity of that need can seem overwhelming at times, we externalize it: invest objects with emotional and symbolic import, hang on to the grand narratives of childhood and family like fetishes that provide access to that other, first world in which we lived in that nest, felt secure enough to venture forth and (at least) peek over the edge to the world below the tree.
But what if those objects are for the most part gone? What if those childhood narratives have been called into question – unverifiable, or suspect in some way? What if that sense of security (of any sort: emotional, physical …) within the primal nest held no guarantee; what if it was a contingent thing, qualified or tenuous in some way(s)? How do these other possibilities disrupt the understanding of the nest as refuge and haven, home for the heart and body … and what effect does this have on the way we construct our-self-story through the filters of memory, and in relation to the assumptions inherent in the social discourse of race and class and gender?
Much to learn and ponder here … and this writing is a start.
I leave you tonight with and image of some recent work, and a quote from an amazing singer:
“…you must understand that I have never really known how to describe the work as anything other than an inspired reaction to the love of and a desire to communicate an arrow from the heart.” – Lisa Gerrard
… sometimes the work is an arrow to the heart as well.
Some really interesting thoughts here Sydney, which I can relate to a lot..it is great to immerse yourself in a project in this way isn’t it, and often surprising what it stirs within us too..good luck with your show!
Thanks so much Cath! Yes, it’s amazing to have the opportunity to dig really deep and get inside the work for such an extended period of time. It’s been an incredible gift, an one that I think has altered my practice – for the better – permanently. Thank you for the good wishes … I’m looking forward to seeing the entire body of work installed in the gallery – it’s going to be a bit surreal, I think, after living with it all in the studio as it’s taken shape over the course of the year’s residency.
an arrow to the heart definitely….& the nest is always tenuous…thanks for these words on the process and emotion at the core of creating Syd.
Thanks Cath … yes, tenuous is a word that comes up again and again in relation to this body of work. Tenuous … and also the idea of endurance, survival. It’s all one, really, isn’t it?
Enjoy your last bit of working time before the exhibit, Sydney.
Thank you Karen! It’s been an amazing (almost) 9 months so far … wouldn’t have traded a single minute for anything!