Every once in a while I have a little flash of understanding about what it is I think I am doing as an artist. It is kind of unpredictable when these insights will happen - yesterday it happened while reading a magazine at the gym. Oh yeah, a total Zen experience - doing two things at once in an already over-stimulating environment. Nothing like mindlessly moving one's body while surrounded by 10 televisions and loud thumpa-thumpa music to bring up the insights.
Anyway, I was electrolyting or chair mastering or whatever you call it and reading my copy of The New Yorker (hey, I got me a little class). I was reading an article about Van Gogh cutting off his ear - apparently some new sh*t has come to light and some people think Gauguin actually cut his ear off during a dispute on the street in Arles. I guess Van Gogh was actually something of a bore and liked to talk and talk into the night about Big Ideas and Gauguin, who was himself kind of a jerk (and by "kind of a jerk" read: a violent, self-centered, misogynist), got fed up and left in anger. Van Gogh followed him out and when they encountered each other on the street, Gauguin used his fencing foil on Van Gogh's ear. Or so the new version of the story goes.
So anyway, it was that little snippet about the Big Ideas that suddenly got me thinking about what the hell I am doing with all this knitting and mapping and traveling and talking. It hardly fits into any idea that Van Gogh might have had about What is Art. Am I just diddling around? Why do I even do this? It just pisses off my family, interrupts my zazen and yoga time, drains my bank account and generally makes life more difficult.
I didn't really come up with answer to those questions but I did see something. Something about looking deeply at life and recording that process. For me, that means using the experience of living in this family, knitting my stitches, talking to other people about their lives as a way of explaining things. Formal ideas, hard-hitting political ideas, sexy art ideas may or may not ever enter into it, which means that sometimes it doesn't look like art. Even to me. But it feels like something bigger than me. It is dark and I don't understand where I am going - I can't see even my foot as it steps forward.
But there is something there. I'll keep looking.