Friday, June 25, 2010

The Art of the Cage

"Sometimes when you draw your cage you're also mapping your way out of it."
~Sharon Lyn Stackpole

Sharon is a very gifted artist friend of mine who has been going through some rather trying stuff lately. When she made that statement yesterday in relation to a photo of her artwork, it hit me like a bolt of lightening. Had I not been sitting down, I surely would have fallen. It was one of the bigger AHA moments I've had in my life. And, as usual, Sharon's timing was impeccable.

I've been having doubts lately. Big doubts. Huge. It's been all I can do to slog my way through them. At one point, as I worked on a project, I heard myself mutter, "What the fuck am I doing? And why?" The voice went on to say, "Pointless, utterly pointless." I've been wondering why I bother posting a blog, if anyone's reading, if it matters (not looking for validation here, I'm just saying). I've been looking at my artwork, thinking that it's just play time. It's not important. I play the piano and think, "What does it matter? No one hears it." Still, I pour my heart and soul into what I do, and... honestly, I feel like it's lost on the world. Shit, sometimes I feel like it's lost on me. Yesterday I came thisclose to taking pictures of it all - my piano, all my art supplies and stamps - and posting it on craigslist.

In a fit of tears I pulled my digital camera off its dock. I looked around at my studio and realized what a daunting task it would be to take pictures of everything. So, I decided to take a break first. I came downstairs for some fresh coffee, hopped online, and the first thing I saw was Sharon's post. Instantly, everything changed. I suddenly understood what and why, and I understood how vital it is.

Over the course of about 46 years, I built myself a cage - not only built it, but reinforced it - only to wake up one day and find myself completely stuck. I had trapped myself, but good. True to Sharon's quote, the only thing I could see was my cage. Problem was, the cage had been put together out of so many different bits and pieces with no diagram or instruction. There was no easy way to take it apart or tear it down. Essentially, I had nothing to do but sit there and draw the cage. I created my way into it, I'd have to create my way out of it. That's exactly what I've been doing this past year. I've been creating my way out of my cage, drawing a map to something... something freer. It's a timely process and can only be done layer by layer, lest the whole thing collapse.

I have to walk my path before I can map it. I have to make the candle before I can light my way. The cage exists so that I can know the freedom without it. Does it hurt the caterpillar to become a chrysalis? Is it painful for the chrysalis to become a butterfly? And once in flight, once launched into the sun on shimmering wings, does it matter?

It matters. It always matters.

How apropos it is that today is Carly Simon's birthday, and I've chosen to play this song.
Let the River Run

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