Sunday, September 14, 2014

Seeing My Work Through the Eyes of Others . . .

   Or Who Needs Google Glass When You Have Friends? 

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to really look at your work objectively and see it with “new eyes”.  I don’t seem to have that ability all that often. But not to worry. I have friends who are willing not only to look at the work but also share their opinions with no compunction or regards for my feelings. That said, I must admit when I can, I do take in the various unsolicited critiques and try to see the work as they do. Here are just a couple of examples which have been sent to me in the past few months about my newest pieces.

Beka, a woman who found my work by Googling “porcelain pinch pots” and is on her own journey playing in the mud, recently wrote,

“I like things that look like they could have been found outside - that's what makes your 'eggs' so appealing and wonderful to me; they'd make the heart stop spotted amongst leaves and mosses in the woods, or washed up in a tangle of seaweed at the beach, but wouldn't be at all out of place there.”

Now that made me smile. But did I ever think about my work buried in a mound of leaves or mosses out there somewhere in the woods? Or being tangled up in a heap of seaweed along some lonely beach? Actually, no. But Beka’s imagining these settings has moved me to think about them as well. And now, looking my newest pieces, this imagining seems to be manifesting itself more and more in their rough exteriors juxtapositioned with the flowing, organic glazed interiors.

Skyscape Revealed

And then there’s my old friend from my Peace Corps Days, Ed, a published poet who lives in upstate New York. Over the years, he’s graciously sent me books of his poetry so this year, I sent him this small piece for his birthday in August. It took him almost a month to write a response (I’m not sure I should call it a “thank you”). 

Leopard's Lair

It starts,

“I’ve been trying to account for the strange “object” you sent me - a seemingly fragile, broken thing that resists categories. . . “

And then, of course, he continues to try and categorize -

“It’s not a bowl or a cup, or anything that lends itself to utilitarian purposes, even though it suggests that it might have been once... if it was, it’s more like a teacup a traveller in the desert might use, something that needs to be placed in the sand, not on a hard table, because it lacks a bottom (is bottomless) & seems more suitable to a nomadic existence, for packing up and carrying away...”

OK, I’ll buy that, but here comes the real complaint:

“Because its edges are rough & serrated, I can’t drink from it in its present condition without running the risk of cutting my lips and tongue. It fills me with thirst & quiet contemplation: dread & desire. It’s very much like a “bitter cup” that way.”

So did he really want a nice utilitarian cup or bowl? He goes on to liken it to a “shell of some prehistoric bird” or “ostrich fossil”, or “an ancient abandoned seashell”. And then there’s a serious attempt to describe the color, inside and out -

“an eggplant on the outside, but inside it hints at some pyrotechnic process with sparks flying, bubbling magma exploding & lava-floes flowing. Something like an antique alchemist’s athanor (I had to look this up - a self-feeding digesting furnace) in the search for secret elixirs, or the formula for the transmutation of lead into gold.”

Then he lets me know he hasn’t just dumped it but actually has put it somewhere where he sees it regularly, even though it seems he doesn’t really see anything even remotely close to what I had titled it - Leopard’s Lair.

“It wobbles on my desktop like a shattered world, a melancholy little planet where past struggles are spent . . . emerging through sacrifice & fire & cracked beginnings into an unimaginable tomorrow, perhaps in the triumph of joy & hope.” 

Well, OK, at last a few optimistic words.

But in the end, finally and thankfully, I think he gets it.

“It demands a place of its own; it refuses to be pigeon-holed. In a word, Bobbie, it is YOU!”

YAY! Yes! Exactly what I’ve been after with all my work - the mirror of my life as a vessel!

Now I can go back, reread the descriptions and see myself/my work through the eyes of a dear friend who may know me even better than I know myself.

Thank you, dear Ed. As you so aptly PS’d:

Like Leonard Cohen says...: “Everything is cracked - that’s how the light gets in...”

1 comment:

Egmont van Dyck said...

A wonderful assessment of your work and I hope that real shortly be heading to your studio to have a look around.