Musings

Autumn

It’s almost November. It smells like wood smoke outside, wood smoke and pungent saltwater and decay. A damp fog chills to the bone, fragile frost crystals gleam and break at first light. Yellow school buses squeal to a stop, whoosh, sigh, swallow children, move on.

It’s almost November. I bring out the boots, the knits, the throw blankets, the scratchy plaid scarf that was Mae’s. I order new books. At the supermarket, wooden crates overflow with carefully and somewhat precariously stacked apple varieties. Honey Crisp, Snow Sweet, Red Delicious, Gala, McIntosh, Cortland, Granny Smith. There are squashes and ciders and pumpkins and ears of dried purple corn. At the coffee shop I drink a hot latte and eat a scone that tastes of orange, ricotta and spiced nutmeg.

After it rains, the grass becomes an emerald velvet cushion. The trees gently lay their jewels upon it: rubies, garnet, topaz, amber and citrine. It’s almost November, and before I know it, this wild riot of color will sleep beneath a blanket of gray and white.

L1011197.jpg

Simplicity

The Japanese sense of beauty has long sharply differed from its Western counterpart: it has been dominated by a love of irregularity rather than symmetry, the impermanent rather than the eternal and the simple rather than the ornate. The reason owes nothing to climate or genetics, but is the result of the actions of writers, painters and theorists, who had actively shaped the sense of beauty of their nation.
— Alain de Botton

Neptune

It's fascinating to me how some art can slice straight through all of my layers and hit me straight in the heart. Like an arrow shot skillfully through a very narrow opening, it completely misses all of my evaluative processing, so that I don't really judge what it is about it that makes it good. My first reaction is only to feel something.

I wrote on my blog years ago that my best pictures were made in a moment when my heart broke. I believe some of the best art is made when the artist is broken in making the work - not only in terms of sadness or grief, but when the beauty so overwhelms them that they create from the most vulnerable place, the inner child.

Merriam-Webster uses words like subdued and interrupted to define brokenness. My husband Johnny shared an interview with John Frusciante some time ago, where he talked about how art already exists outside of us - that we don't "create" art, but rather we are a channel through which the art seeks to finds expression. If this is true, then art does require our brokenness. We construct the adult we want to be to protect the child we are inside, but it is often that very adult in us who judges and criticizes, who overthinks, rationalizes and creates fear. This is what needs to be subdued for the inner child to have the courage to bring the art to life. 

Perhaps this same process of brokenness is what allows us to feel art deeply - even art that we might otherwise dismiss. Jeanette Winterson wrote about this in her essay Art Objects: "When you say 'This work has nothing to do with me,' 'This work is boring/pointless/silly/obscure/élitist etc.,' you might be right, because you are looking at a fad, or you might be wrong because the work falls so outside of the safety of your own experience that in order to keep your own world intact, you must deny the other world of the painting. This denial of imaginative experience happens at a deeper level than our affirmation of our daily world. Every day, in countless ways, you and I convince ourselves about ourselves. True art, when it happens to us, challenges the 'I' that we are."

When I first met my husband, my experience with music was somewhat limited. I didn't like certain genres and wouldn't listen to them because they felt abrasive to me. But Johnny had broad taste in music - everything from metal to blues to classical was something he was open to. Through him I learned to listen to music differently - to see all music as art, with an artist behind it who has something to say. In retrospect, I think I was just afraid of what I didn't know and didn't understand.

It takes courage not only to make art, but to let it in.

A writer’s heart, a poet’s heart, an artist’s heart, a musician’s heart is always breaking. It is through that broken window that we see the world.
— Alice Walker

Pause

Johnny and I recently went for a long weekend in Brooklyn, to work and shoot. New York City intrigues me. It feels as though there are worlds within a world, where even in a city of these proportions there exist smaller circles.

Walking down the street to the subway, I watch our neighbors walk out of their brownstones, wave and call out to cars driving by. They stop, roll down the window and have a chat in the middle of the street. Children walk home from the subway station with their backpack slung over their shoulder. Two old men in Chinatown, side by side with their food carts on the sidewalk, smoke cigarettes and argue. In the coffee shop in Bedford-Stuyvesant, a girl with pink hair behind the counter smiles and greets a customer: "Are you having your usual?"

I wish I could press a pause button in New York, because even in the frantic pace of the city I sense quieter and more intimate stories around me, but the current of the city carries them away so quickly,