Saturday, November 19, 2022

Between Seasons - Turning Inward

"The Dance Between Seasons," 24x18", oil on linen panel, 2022

"The Dance Between Seasons" is the first truly quiet painting I’ve made this year. It conveys a sense of rest and introspection, even with the bright reds and "dancing" leaves. It's a slow dance.

In my previous post, I talked about being drawn away from the desert, and towards the water. Water gives life, and it is full of movement and music. The ocean is not quiet. After a year of making paintings that are overtly exuberant, outward-focused, colorful, and energetic, this new piece is a welcome change of pace. My personality is such that I am naturally inclined to turn inward. But even with this natural tendency for introspection, I'm realizing that I too often deny that part of myself in a valiant (?) effort to save face and to be everything for everyone--to put others' needs and desires above my own. It’s how I was conditioned, and it’s a good thing until it causes resentment or burnout.

I began "The Dance" during a season so frantic, I didn’t really have any business starting a new painting. Yet it was one of those times where I felt a deep compulsion--an actual need--to do this thing. If I didn't follow through, I knew I’d be missing out on a necessary piece of the "puzzle" that is my journey as an artist. I was between commissions and between travels. We had enjoyed a spectacular fall, but I was busy with kids and life obligations.

I started it anyway. One afternoon I cut the maple branches from a small tree in our back yard. I plucked the rogue dahlias from my dwindling garden, and set up a green pumpkin that I'd collected on a trip to the pumpkin patch with the kids. The candle was a necessary addition. I played around with several different arrangements, but the elements seemed to fall into place in a dramatic diagonal, and that composition just felt right.

In the afternoon north light of my studio, I began. It was so dark I could barely see what I was doing, but I loved the mood of the setup so much that I refused to alter it in favor of more light.

All too soon I was called away. I found out that my grandmother had passed away, and the funeral was taking place just one day before I was meant to depart for Rochester, NY to teach a workshop.

My travels were outward-focused. Time spent with family, reminiscing about Grandma Joyce, and grieving together. Then, going straight from there to my workshop, and teaching 15 eager students for three days. It was an incredible experience - in fact, my first workshop in nearly five years--and a smashing success.

But upon returning from the funeral, and the workshop… I came back to a family that needed me, bathrooms that needed cleaning, laundry that needed washing, a fridge and pantry that needed to be restocked...

...And this painting.

I didn't even know what I needed. But that intuitive side of me, that artist within, was quietly inviting me inward as soon as circumstances allowed, to sort through the thoughts and emotions still swirling around unacknowledged.

Over the span of several afternoons, this painting became a meditation. It was a conduit for me to process my emotions and to find peace. I listened to the soundtrack I had made for Grandma’s funeral—the one that ultimately never got played because everything seemed to happen so fast and in the blink of an eye, we were all driving away from the burial site--a picturesque little German cemetary, with the leaves all falling down and covering the gravestones like a burial shroud--and then we were moving on with our busy lives.

So I thought about her while I painted, I celebrated her life, and I rejoiced with her that she is no longer suffering but is home at last.

I'm thankful for this painting because it gave me what I needed in this chapter of my life. I am so very thankful for art, and the surprising ways it can bring healing or joy without us even realizing.

After seeing "The Dance" on Facebook, a friend shared the following with me. I thought it fit perfectly and described my feelings about the work better than I ever could. So here it is.

The winter solstice time is no longer celebrated as it once was, with the understanding that this is a period of descent and rest, of going within our homes, within ourselves and taking in all that we have been through, all that has passed in this full year which is coming to a close... like nature and the animal kingdom around us, this time of hibernation is so necessary for our tired limbs, our burdened minds.

Our modern culture teaches avoidance at a max at this time; alcohol, lights, shopping, overworking, over spending, comfort food and consumerism.

And yet the natural tug to go inwards as nearly all creatures are doing is strong and the weather so bitter that people are left feeling that winter is hard, because for those of us without burning fires and big festive families, it can be lonely and isolating. Whereas in actual fact winter is kind, she points us in her quiet soft way towards our inner self, towards this annual time of peace and reflection, embracing the darkness and forgiving, accepting and loving embracing goodbye the past year.

"Winter takes away the distractions, the buzz, and presents us with the perfect time to rest and withdraw into a womb like love, bringing fire & light to our hearth".

.. and then, just around the corner the new year will begin again, and like a seed planted deep in the earth, we will all rise with renewed energy once again to dance in the sunlight.
Life is a gift a Happy winter to you all...

Written by Bridget Anna McNeil

Reposted from Juno's Place


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