Tuesday, July 30, 2013

No Passing Zone

There was a gigantic bullfrog sharing the cold spring pool with me. He looked as massive as my foot, resting in a crouch at the edge, with his legs folded under him. I stood in the water knee deep; the ripples in the pond threw concentric reflections onto the maple tree's trunk, like a thread beaded with upturned crescents, waving down the trunk as though it were swallowing many moons.
I remain preoccupied with the conundrum of time. Now we are upon the last day of July and I'm already nostalgiac for the passing of this summer - I'm seeing the change in the light, and hearing the cicadas in the mornings. My projected "most productive summer since" has had a mind of its own. I have made some new work and have not had to destroy anything yet; I've also done some work on my studio storage. I've worked on my poetry a little (less than I'd meant to), and some music (less than in the performance season). I know that I'm trying to cover too much ground but I also know how lucky I am, to have this particular way of "failing."
Newly organized storage space in my Lambertville, NJ studio
It's something very small, but I knew what I wanted to do to bring this painting to its completion; then when I went to do it, the becoming became something else. A small intervention on what looks like a small painting --  A painting is like a life: sometimes appearing in a form that can take one by surprise. A monumental image can be no larger than a book you can hold in your hand.
I painted today. I continued with a few, I finished a couple, I took photos. I need to be preparing my new surfaces, I need to buy more supplies. I feel driven to be more dense in my productivity; I'm still getting used to having that option again after so long. I think about what must be left undone, in order to do what must be. I consider what to eliminate.
It has been suggested to me that I might decide my life is already going according to my plans.
 ©2013 Ravenna Taylor, "Speaking In Tongues," oil on linen over wood, with fabric, 7 x 6-7/8 inches

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Crows In The Hayfields, Cicadas In The Trees

These clouds have long fingers

I feel them resting on my shoulders
And the sky is trying

To keep from falling
Depending too much

Upon my spine.

  © 2013 Ravenna Taylor, oil on linen over wood, 9 x 7.50 inches

Thursday, July 11, 2013



After the storm last night, the sky
turned to cadmium hues, yellows – really –
it was like peering into the throat
of a honey-colored lily.
We’d never seen anything like that,
summer sky like a glowing firefly
and to the southeast
a rainbow in reply –

We watched King of Comedy after that;
it made me squirmy, embarrassed.
I wondered about other artist friends –
might they have felt it – that Rupert was like us,
believing in what we make
while the world taps finger to temple
thinks us a touch out of our minds –
insufficiently observant

of social cues and rules, we are
– loving everybody and everything
a little too much.
I wanted to crawl back to my cave, to tell the truth.
I would never kidnap a star
and go to jail, to get the world
to notice me and what I do.
Maybe I need to be crazier.

Monday, July 1, 2013

"The woods are lovely, dark and deep./ But I have promises to keep,/ And miles to go before I sleep..."

This morning I looked at a series of photos I've taken of a painting in process. The first image is really a drawing in oil paint - I like it, but I wanted something more like a painting, with complexity and layers. I am working with a new material, the oil paint-resistant paper produced by Arches, "Huile." It suits me to work on paper, even with oils; I like being able to change the size and format as I go along, which is an obstacle presented with a stretched canvas, or canvas on wood panel. I feel more free on a less precious, time-invested material, one which will be easily stored or put to other use if it doesn't become what I want.

The image and the gesture of this work are completely different from most of what I've been doing in my work for the last few years. I have to trust this urge though; this is how I work. This tangent pursuit has been in my consciousness for months, ever since Hurricane Sandy struck. There are still a lot of downed trees in view where I live, and over the months of observation, an accumulation of losses, a panoply of sorts, so that I saw shadows in every upturned root wad. The photos I took of many downed trees and upturned roots have been the genesis of my sidetrack - see some of how I've processed these images HERE and HERE.

I might have just completed one of these paintings - it isn't quite what I thought I meant it to be, but something is telling me to let it be what it is, and start over with a new one, even as I continue on my other visual path. This might be a growing project. It will be interesting to see where my paths decide to cross. I am not the kind of artist who names a series and then produces it -- something demands my attention, and if it isn't satisfied, it demands more. Maybe a series develops, or maybe acting it out leaves marks on the path I'm traveling already.

I might add a photo or a series of photos to this post, but not yet. I'm not ready to share this work. In the studio, I've had to beat off the internalized voices of critics who already think I am insufficiently "consistent" in my work. Here is what an esteemed friend wrote to me, when I asked his opinion of this criticism:

"Consistency is over-rated.

I say vision, obsession, desperation, need, love, and 100 other CONTENTS come before consistency.
Unless you are an artist like Ad Reinhardt or Peter Halley or Robert Ryman ...
Men fear change. We actually delude ourselves into believing that there is such a thing as consistency.
Really there is only change.
Men are great. But very very limited. And scared.
So we create orders.
And silly ideas.
'A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds...' Emerson
'Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.' Saint Oscar Wilde
'Consistency is contrary to nature, contrary to life. The only completely consistent people are the dead.' Aldous Huxley

In other words Ravenna, if you are consistent: You are already ... ... ... dead.
Trust me.
Release your inner-visions ...
Others will later let you know if you have gone mad ...
Or they won't and just love what you shamanic side brings..."

Thank you, Friend!

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

see the full poem by Robert Frost, HERE.