Friday, January 02, 2009

For the past couple of years I have set some very deliberate new year resolutions, and to a large extent, have been fairly successful in keeping them.  This year I feel less certain about what needs to be done.  I feel a little like I am emerging from a haze and my eyes are still adjusting to the bright light and clear shapes.  The haze, or perhaps blur is a better word, was caused by activity.  Someone suggested to me over the holidays that I have been in a "manic phase."  I was slightly insulted but it had the sad ring of truth to it, too.  And what goes up must come down. One is bound to have a crash after working at that pace and filling up the hours with enough activity for half a dozen people.

In this life I continually feel a pull between wanting a life of quiet contemplation and loving a life crammed full of everything.

When I was a first year art student, my drawing professor introduced me to the work of Giorgio Morandi. I was fresh out of my rural Massachusetts town and knew nothing about art history beyond Georgia O'Keefe (for some strange reason her's was the only work that my high school art teacher showed us images of). Each day of art school brought with it new revelations but especially memorable was the time when the class was shown images of Morandi's still life paintings. It was the first time that I understood that the whole world could be seen in the simplest, most mundane objects.

Morandi spent most of his adult life living in a couple of rooms in Bologna, Italy. His daily needs were largely cared for by his mother and sisters. He painted, drew and etched the same bottles and jars on the same table for decades. Through that, he gave us everything we need to know.

His work had and has a profound affect on my thoughts about art and about life. The Metropolitan Museum just had a rare exhibition of his work and in the frantic level of activity, I missed it. It seems slightly unbelievable that I allowed that to happen, yet it did. Obviously I didn't truly realize the lessons that Morandi has to offer us.

But you see, I also love the work of Annette Messenger. Annette Messenger leaves nothing out. She collects and saves and makes things at a rapid pace. I actually don't know that for sure, but seeing her work, one feels the activity of it. The first piece I ever saw of her work was one in which she collected little, dead sparrows after accidently stepping on one. She collected them and then knit little sweaters and sometimes booties for them. It was so unbelievably touching and funny and beautiful.

Her exhibition at MoMA in the mid-1990s was like receiving permission to make art from exactly what you have and about exactly what you think and feel. Forget all that art school clap trap - go for it!

So, while I was tempted to make my new year resolution the ability to say "no" more often, I have decided not to set that as a goal. My resolution this year is not make any resolutions whatsoever. Mindful like a cat dozing outside a mouse hole, just let it happen.


dorina said...

you know, i've always blamed my family for the situation you are describing. my mother's family comes from germany, and my father's family comes from sicily. i always feel like i'm swinging from an existence of organized civility and stoicism to one of buoyant lunacy. and i can relate to your feelings of missing the exhibit at the MET museum. in 2004 sam shepard had a new play produced at the new school . . directly ACROSS the street from me. a hop, skip and a jump . . i could have rolled out of my bed . . but i didn't. i didn't! somehow seeing the show just slipped away . . (sigh) . . i think our resolutions can change from minute to minute depending on what is being weighed . .

island sweet said...

oh my - i had photos of the work of both morandi and messager in my residence room when i did my masters degree - and very little else! funny how we all feel we need to choose...
ps baby is moving slowly. strongly. my guess now is the middle of the night so we're all heading off to bed at 9:0 to try to trick ourselves into sleep. xxx