A few weeks ago, a wonderful and thoughtful woman came to visit my studio. She asked “where do you see your work going?” The question confused me. My first impulse was to answer in terms of upcoming shows, or of some kind of plan for my career. I was relieved when she shook her head and said, “No, I mean, where are you going with painting?”
For a long time, I have said these things about my practice: “I am trying to save the world with a paintbrush”, and “I am trying to perfect my craft”. I meant both sincerely, I thought about them deeply. But over the course of recent months, everything has shifted. I found myself looking for words, which is good news, because the gaps in language are places filled with music and images. So I stumbled along in my description of my aim, and the best I could come up with was this:
I am looking for a place where we can be together. Not just Tim and me; I am looking for a way to meet the universe. I am painting something that simultaneously accumulates and dissolves. When I think about where my work is going, I think that I will paint things more and more finely and densely, so that at last my work will be like hair, like shadows, like dust. That’s where I’m going with my work. Shortly after Tim died, I had a dream from which I woke with his voice in my ear, and he said “We are together inside the prayer.” That is what I am doing, I suppose. I am praying.
I think of painting the way I think of love, or of breathing. You can’t hold onto a breath and say “This is my breath”. You keep doing it. You let it do what it needs to do with your body. It’s a movement, not a product. Painting is a movement, and rather than seeking to perfect the product, I think the key is in seeking to perfect the movement, to let it do with your body and your soul whatever it is that it needs to do. You perfect the movement by doing it over and over again, by listening to it and meeting its requirements, by giving yourself to whatever grace allows it to move through you. You allow yourself to be moved, and you understand that like a breath, you pull something of the universe into your body, you let it pass through you, and when it comes out its form has changed. And so has yours.