It seems I am still circling into the heart of the art matter, not yet alighted. What presents itself is my ongoing struggle with communication about mystical events. The subject of art and the Work space is at its heart a mystical subject. To talk too much is to annihilate what is essential, obscuring the very thing I am attempting to vivify for the listener. Complete silence does not seem to be right action in my situation at the moment. A compromise is being called for, and this is a beginning response to that call.
Just last week I had an art opening at the wonderful Emerald Tablet in San Francisco. I performed flamenco at the event with some great people, and it was a big night, full, a bounty of rich impressions. The event was possibly the best attended at the Emerald Tablet to date, standing room only with people spilling out into another room while we performed, and the crowd loved everything right out loud.
Most of my Jazz art pieces were there, some quite large at six feet by three feet, and there was a large flamenco piece that I worked on night and day to finish before the show. Two comments about the paintings were consistent throughout the night – that my work looked like flamenco, even the jazz, and that there was so much feeling to my pieces. This is well in keeping with what I said during last night’s Journey to the Heart show; my approach to art and just about everything has a base in theater. Life as theater has been an ongoing posture from an early age. When I paint, I set up a space, a theater space.
Theater is a form of magic. I left the Catholic church when I was in fourth grade, but before that I’d actively sought catechism classes on my own. The impressions I had of mass, particularly the high mass, are reminiscent of theater. And all of this relates intimately with magic and ritual. These forms have all come from a human need to gather and draw down higher energetic forces, to tap into the divine.
When I am painting, first I create the space where there might be resonance with a higher energetic source. Sometimes I use incense, sometimes special essential oil blends. There must be present a genuine necessity, for this kind of work to take place. The necessity that produces the best work is of a different order than that of needing to produce work for a show. A painting documents the vibrational resonance that was present in its making. It is also a voyaging device. I stare at the canvas until I see, and what I am seeing sometimes is a chamber and its inhabitants, which I document. It is not so much a visual documentation as a feeling documentation.
There have been times when it has seemed as though the universe conspired to bring me to the state of painting, which is a state of active receptivity, in order that it may then download data of a real emotional nature. Some data that we need for our work is of a higher emotional nature. Transmission is silent. Silent like winter, but the roots of it are riotous underneath, bursting with new life that will shoot forth in spring. Some paintings are the flowering of this transmission. And with this flowering, as people view and resonate with the space of origin, more seeds are planted.
The extraordinary feeling of flamenco, particularly during those times when the whole becomes greater than the total of its parts, when duende is present, can be transcending. This is what I was sensing behind the comment that the pieces looked like flamenco. Naturally, the hungry seeking of a particular quality of experience can keep us from that quality as it is in the present moment. When doing replaces being, we are in a place of shadow, and trying to cast a light from this place results in ego building activity.
Yet light can be found in shadow. An example of this took place over the course of this same art opening. The performance situation was particularly stressful. The body had been up night and day painting and preparing for the ten days or so I’d been given to prepare, then a full twenty four hours by the time we drove home from the city that night. This was the least factor, to indicate that there was not present a lot of physical energy. Work of a transcending nature requires a lot of energy, but that energy comes from a bigger source than what the body can provide. Sometimes low physical energy means less defense against such a bigger source.
I performed with a beloved flamenco teacher of mine and she practiced tough love during a very brief rehearsal as people were coming in for the art opening. She practiced it after, as well – the chief complaint being how insecure and closed I was in my performance. Although I’d experienced moments of being while dancing, indeed, fear was masking my love a lot of the time. Coming home, processing so many impressions, suddenly the light broke through. I saw something about the nature of confidence, and the necessity of being in a state of confidence to be able to transmit what is essential. This may seem quite simple and obvious, but there was something about how this translated intimately that was enlightening.
This is the point of art making, of any artistic pursuit for me – enlightenment. And anytime there is a point to anything, there is potential for counterpoint. Artistic pursuit can also be used for making more dense, adding more substance to the ego, thus obscuring the light of what is essential. How do we distinguish what serves our work from what doesn’t in the realm of the arts? Tricky business because as Rumi puts it, art can be flirtation with surrender, but not the real thing. Guidance is ultimately to be found within, but there are signposts, hints. As indicated in my previous blog post, energy, quality of energy, intention, presence or transcendence of identity, these factors play in invocational work. I’d like to examine these in more detail on the next Journey to the Heart show Thursday, March 14 at 6pm PST on Gorebagg/JustinTV.