This may be the one time words are worth more than a thousand pictures.
It came to me after I hung the three pieces of handmade paper I plan to use for Jim’s triptych and then began to tack on the images and the words he and I have been collecting in our sessions in the studio.
It was the first truly inspired moment I’ve had in weeks.
After Scarlett’s porcelain vessel was completed, I cleaned up the studio getting ready to jump right into my next two commissions, both mixed media works on paper. The first and more involved of the two is the triptych I am doing with the input from Jim (see previous August post “And So It Begins. . .") At the beginning of any project, there is usually all kinds of energy, excitement, free flowing exchange of ideas between artist and client. But this can be easily derailed if one or the other is not ‘present’ – that can be either physically or psychically. . . or both.
That first August meeting in my studio where we began to discuss and then collect images for this piece was a good beginning. I felt very encouraged and was looking forward to our weekly meetings. By the end of five or six weeks, I was hoping to help Jim take those images which are most significant for him and create one or more small collages which would then be incorporated into the final piece.
That was the hope and the plan.
But the next week, Jim didn’t show up. Apparently, he totally forgot, which could actually have been a consequence of the residual memory loss from his accident. So I decided to both email and call before our next meeting as a reminder. He called me the morning of that meeting and apologized but couldn’t make it because he hadn’t slept much the night before and had some pain in his legs. What could I say? Whatever air had been filling my creative balloon for this project was escaping . . . fast.
Between Jim missing for whatever reasons, and my missing a week being in Los Angeles, we’ve only had 3 sessions since August 13. It felt to me that Jim was coming when he could but wasn’t really invested or engaged. That left me feeling at a loss. What was happening to this project? Just before our session last week, not being really sure he would show up, I decided maybe I’d just better get going on my own; take what we had done so far and start.
That’s when, after putting up the paper, the images and the words, I had my epiphany.
On the blue paper for Jim’s life before the accident – the one when he was a policeman, the job of his dreams - I tacked on mostly images he had brought in and a few words we collected. On the silver/gray paper, which will depict the accident, I put just the series of words he and I had found. And for the last piece of bronze paper, where he wants a phoenix to symbolize his life today, I put a few phrases. But as I looked at the whole, it became very clear to me that perhaps the center piece shouldn’t have any images at all, but be a series of layered words, words that describe what it was like for Jim to be in this horrific accident, 3 months in a coma, with a number of major surgeries and years of rehabilitation behind him.
When I told Jim my idea last week in the studio and asked him what he thought about this ‘imageless’ word-filled center piece, he sat there almost speechless. And then he said, almost not able to get the words out fast enough, “Oh, my gosh, that’s perfect. . . that’s it. The whole time I was in a coma I had no images. Even when I came out of the coma, and I could speak, I had no recollection of what was visually going on around me.”
My inspiration had hooked him. And no surprise, then I was hooked as well. This was the first real creative connection of our collaboration. I think I’ll be seeing him this week in the studio.