It was a day of surprises.
It's reunuion weekend at SJU. The pottery studio had a constant buzz of tours, tea, and talk today. I met a man who insisted that hope is the last thing I want, compared my work to Camille Claudel's, and insists that time does not exist. He has lived seemingly everywhere and doesn't feel at home anywhere. Another man had problems with flouride and crop tillage, but preferred Jerusalem artichokes to potatoes. He seems to not have moved much. Richard's daughters suddenly appeared in the pottery exuding a sisterly synchronized joy. I found myself at Fishers (legendary local restaurant) celebrating Joe and Sara's birthdays/wedding anniversary. There it was revealed that Garrison Keillor may not be such a nice guy. I also had some amazing sunfish there. Brandon unveiled his mastery of musical hand farting and his obnoxious car alarm. I infiltrated the Johnny/Benny reunion party courtesy of Steven. I learned Raj and Emily have AAA roadside assistance and that I taught their nieces at MVL. Lot's of surprises today.
I did manage to do a bit of work on this "Simul Justus et Peccator" sculpture.
But before all that hit, I had a concise lesson from Richard. His slip decoration for these bottles is masterful. He was happy to let me watch, but emphasized that what he is doing is not a "technique." It's something far more. He talked about putting his whole being into that moment when he applies the slip. What he does in a sweep of his hand has taken decades. To refer to it as a technique and try to replicate it or teach it as such is disrespectful. I take this as another manifestation of Richard's insistence on deep relationships. He believes in deep relationships with materials, with people, with community, with the environment, and with his spirituality. He doesn't abide the trite, disposable, temporary, unfelt, or superficial.
There was a cover band at the reunion party. They were playing 90's hits fairly well. I'll admit I did bust a move or two, but something occurred to me part way through my night as a Johnny impostor. Knowing approximately 3 out of the hundreds of people there afforded me time to try to understand. All 9 members of the cover band seemed to know their instruments well. Songs would melt into each other seamlessly for long, well-rehearsed stretches. So they were good at what they did, but what were they doing? Technique? It's a shallow relationship of nostalgic sound bites and crowd-pleasing prompts. Is this what Richard was warning me about in our slip discussion this morning? This band certainly put a lot of time and energy into preparing and delivering this content. But where were they in all of it? A deep relationship with instrumentation, lyrics, audience interaction were all absent. Audience members engaged in a sort of mob psychology that lacked foundation beyond nostalgia. It amounted to an awkward group aerobics event.
While I did have a good time, it got me thinking about the differences. Where does my art come from? Do I intend for a deep relationship with my audience or my materials? To what extent do I encourage fleeting, superficial encounters? What does it mean that I haven't committed to any one medium? I put a lot of time and energy into my creative work, but to what end? I seem to always be rushing to meet deadlines. I often chase commissions thinking that my way to an art career is somewhere down that road. Am I disconnecting from other parts of my life such as family, faith, teaching? Here's a portion of my application letter for this residency,