At times in my life I have made some radical changes (career, partners, life style, living space, etc) and most of those times I have ventured forward knowing that they were the correct new paths to take. I felt a weight being lifted off my chest and felt lighter and freer. I acknowledged an excitement bubbling inside. All of these feelings cued me that I was being true to myself. Often I had no real idea of how I was going to accomplish my new goals or how to go about even moving in the new direction, yet I felt that my intuition would guide me and some sort of higher source would aid me in moving forward.
It was often, after I was well down the new path, that my confidence would start to wane and I began to wonder, “what in the heck am I doing?” Was I insane? Am I alone out on a limb? Does everyone think I am crazy? It is in those moments that all these obstacles start to line up and scare me.
This routine can happen with all sorts of activities, not just life altering ones. A simple example of this, is when I go bowling (once every five years). I’m not a very athletic or coordinated person, so I always feel a bit stressed about anything I need those skills for. I put on my rented shoes, I took the time to find the right ball, I walked up to the lane and I stood there. I think to myself, “What the heck, this is just for fun”. I haul the ball down the polished wood towards the pins and what happens? I get a strike! And I continue to do well for the first game. Everyone is astonished. I feel like a winner.
For the second game, instead of playing intuitively, bowling suddenly becomes serious and I tried to copy others’ technique. I lose my confidence as I suddenly cannot replicate my successful first game. I become stressed. I am no longer having fun. The problem was that I took my eye off my goal, my goal of “just having fun”.
So how did my goal change during the bowling example? I think part of it was that since I was bowling so well, I thought I should become more serious about it, do it “right”. It became about winning and I lost my style, my edge, my feeling of lightness.
In terms of making art, at times I can get myself into this tizzy too. I can be going along making a piece (my art is constructed of found objects and organic objects) having fun, being in a meditative place and enjoying making art for art’s sake. Then all of a sudden I get nervous. What am I doing? Is this “something”? What is it? What will people think of it? Should I just stop since I don’t know what it is going to be? At this point I try and remember my goal of “doing art” and I keep going or sometimes I set it down for a moment. This gives me time to look at the piece and get some perspective. I may pick something else up to do or I may take a walk or surf the web. Suddenly something triggers me to get excited about what I was making. An aha moment appears and my intuition has once again taken me in the perfect direction without me knowing it.
This is what happened recently with a piece that got jury selected for a show in Berkeley. It started with an old bird cage I had scavenged from my friend Chip’s recycle yard. It sat around outside my studio for a few months. I picked it up finally and covered it in rice paper to make a lantern. I felt very connected to the shoji-like treatment. I liked the sturdy metal frame with the delicate paper and the container has been a symbol I have been working with throughout my art career. After I finished, I thought, “Great, there has to be more to this.” I did not know what to do next. I felt like I had happily meandered down a path in the woods and then there was a dead-end. The journey was nice but now what? I was frustrated and left the covered birdcage sitting on my art table for a few weeks.
I was doing some research on the Japanese American Internment and came upon the date of the executive order 9066. It was coming up in the next few weeks. I decided that I had to do something to commemorate that painful event. Suddenly the rice paper birdcage became the Remembrance Shrine to hold the memories of the internees. I cut windows with shutters into the rice paper for the typed memories to be displayed behind the bars of the birdcage. These memories had been given to me by internees. Viewers would have to interact with the piece to read about the internees’ intimate feelings and memories of that time. A hidden light bulb inside the cage made the rice paper glow with a resilience and beauty.
It is fascinating to me that my inner self knew to create this fragile yet strong container for this very important piece, even though it took a while for my outer knowing self to figure it out. Now I strive to have faith in what I am doing and know that surprises may be revealed to me when it is the right time. It will all come together whether I know it or not.