Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Impermanence Part I

There are generally 2 aspects of the art that stand out in people’s initial impressions when they first see my art, whether in person or through a photo. Size is the first, about which there is plenty to discuss- ‘the nature of scale and how we relate to it’ being a particularly juicy topic. ‘How to accomplish large-scale’ is perhaps the common thread in all my work and the aspect of the art that keeps me coming back for more as new techniques and the possibilities those reveal continue to develop and evolve.

The second aspect that jumps out follows on the heels of the recognition of the size of the artwork. In fact, the comprehension of the size (which may take a moment to register when the art is being seen in photos, which is the vast majority of the time) almost always leads to the next realization: a sudden acknowledgement of the art’s temporary and very finite existence.

While unique to each viewer, generally speaking, the aspect of scale creates an eye-widening and a mind-opening, an experience of expansiveness. In contrast, the aspect of impermanence creates distress, a desire to protect, to hold on.

My art is not unique in it brief existence. There are many artists working with this phenomenon. Few artworks, though, make so dramatically clear this aspect of their being.

I say all this in pondering why my art art has so imbued me with such recognition of the impermanence of all things. Since doing the large-scale beach art my senses have become attuned to the many opportunities that offer this experience. Indeed, the endless ways that life is serving us experience of the temporary have became easier to resolve amidst the constant flow of life, a flow which is really an innumerable series of moments, moments that have never existed before and will never exist again, each moment independent and unique.

Implicit in the recognition of impermanence is an awareness, however unconscious, of the ultimate impermanence that we can experience- the ending of our own lives. This perspective highlights for me that in the Western experience, death is an abstraction that we have a complicated relationship with. It can be said that Westerners are kept from dealing with death directly- it happens in movies and hospitals, not within the village, where we might have experienced the death of anyone around us who might die, perhaps visiting them in their home in their final moments. This disconnect foments and perpetuates a fear of a moment that we will all one day face. We are inherently fearful of the unknown, and there is no greater unknown then death.

I didn’t set out to create art that would dissolve almost immediately. I had initially stumbled upon a massive canvas, an enormous playground for creativity. But right away I had to contend with the relentless tide. After years of spending hours on an artwork to have it begin washing away oftentimes before I could finish, their impermanent nature began to play a larger part in what the art was about for me, what drew me to doing it. I began to notice a shift in my own approach towards life.

This now has become a driving force behind sharing the art with the world. My workshops are moving towards focusing on the aspect of the impermanence of the art, and the creation of it knowing that it will imminently dissolve. A feeling that has been developing within me for these many years is that our ability to embrace our own demise is proportional to our ability to embrace our own life.

I will continue this musing in a future installment. For now I would like to leave you with this thought: What would you do if you knew that today was your last day to be alive? What if you had a month, a year, or even 5 years? How would that shift how you choose to engage your life, the actions you would take, the work you would do, the people you would connect with? It is worth pondering, for as challenging as what the thoughts might convey to us, how it might confront the lives we have set up, our spirit already knows it, and not being in accord with this larger perspective is already impacting what our spirit is able to be. Perhaps spend your next meditation or journaling session focusing on this topic and see where is takes your thoughts and feelings.

Thank you for reading and I’ll be back with further thoughts on this important theme of Impermanence.

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