Come so close that I might see…

Recently, my friend Aarik (whom I haven’t seen in person in about two years, which is a travesty) made an intriguing post on Twitter. He was musing about the idea of publishing an anthology of reflections regarding an important single line from some song, film, poem, or other source. He suggested calling this journal Hold The Line and I’ve been thinking about the idea every day since I skimmed my eyes over his tweet.

It goes without saying that each one of us could offer many dozens of lines from the treasure trove we carry in our minds. Lord knows I’ve been moved by everything from scriptures to contemporary internet memes. When I glide back over my life, though, it’s clear that some lines are held more closely to my core – to the experiences they influenced – than others.

Lying in bed last night I decided to make an entry in Aarik’s theoretical journal. My Hold The Line for today (for right now, since probably it would be something else in 20 minutes), is from Mazzy Star’s 1993 masterpiece, So Tonight That I Might See.

“Come so close that I might see the crash of light come down on me.”1

There’s something so powerful in the idea that when we come together we approach transcendence: come so close that I might see. It’s a proposition, a hope. If/Then. If this other entity is close enough to my core, then perhaps I may experience a charged glimpse of something beyond me. Then it would also be within me, a kind of multiplicity that blows out me-ness with all-ness.

Even so, my perspective – my sensate awareness – is also central. This is like Annie Dillard’s “tree with the lights in it”2 or Moses’s burning bush; the intimate presence, both terrifying and awesome, brings astonishment. Come so close that I might be more than me. Ego death. Samadhi. A disappearance of masks and pettiness in lieu of some true (if only momentary) unity.

Let there be light – and it crashes.

There is a bit of an out-of-body charge to the order of operations in Hope Sandoval’s mumbled words, in the “gothic hallucination”3 of Roback’s droning guitar tone. From closeness to sight to the mystical crash of light. Closeness catalyzes an outside, transmundane experience. I see the light come down on me in that moment. Sharp, electric, like an accidental brush against a live wire or the vertigo of a hypnic jerk.

I have felt that pulsing disorientation a few times. With Robin, her blond bob, and the small of her back all those years ago. With Miranda, born like a bomb, a modern Minerva bursting fully-formed into new reality. Even last week, suddenly seeing a former student after years and almost bursting into tears over it.

Maybe the crash of light always carries tears along with it.

Cliché, I suppose. But also real experience and astonishment… moments of enlightenment brought on by the presence of another real person.

Album cover for Mazzy Star’s So Tonight That I Might See.

1) Mazzy Star. “So Tonight That I Might See.” So Tonight That I Might See, performance by Sandoval, Hope and David Roback, Capitol Records, 1993.

2) Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. New York, NY: Harper, 1998. Page 35-36.

3) Moreland, Quinn. “Review – Mazzy Star: So Tonight That I Might See.” Pitchfork, Pitchfork, 14 June 2020, pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/mazzy-star-so-tonight-that-i-might-see/.

Light Study

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Above are two studies of light effects I made last week while traveling to visit family. Left is from sunlight glare through a window onto a wall/ceiling in the Fine Arts Building. Right is from a tableau of multiple light beams through an empty PBR case. Click the image for a large version.

I almost always carry a special art-making case of paper, gouache, collage material, and colored pencils with me on vacations to visit family. Got some good stuff this time.

More later.

Dream of Light

I attended the opening of Antonio Lopez Garcia‘s retrospective at the Museum of Fine Arts – Boston back in April of 2008. It was a wonderful trip. I was thinking about it today. How momentous it felt to be there. Seeing so many friends from all over the US who were there for it – even Rackstraw Downes was there that day! Tim Lowly was there. Tim Kennedy and Eve Mansdorf were there. David Gracie was there. Sangram Majundar was there. A few low-quality photo pictures are below.

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The best part for me was at an early point in the day before the crowds arrived. I found myself standing next to the master, looking together at one of his paintings. It was nice to see him looking closely, finding a contemplative moment in a masterwork he’d painted many years before. There was a leveling there, an equanimity – the master must look, just as the audience must. We both see and take in what is before us. In that space and time of perception we try to understand. In those wavelengths of light we dream of a unity and order and meaning beyond ourselves. We dream of light.

Inspiration – Ian Shelly

Ian Shelly is a former student – and current friend – of mine. He teaches at Indiana University Southeast with his wife, the inimitable Natalie Shelly. They are awesome people and I’m so glad to know them.

Yesterday I drove out to St. Charles, MO to see Ian’s show at the Foundry Art Center there. It was great to see the continuity between his newer work and the thesis work he made here at Mizzou. Below are a few shots of the works installed at the Foundry. For best viewing check it out yourself! The Foundry is a very large space with tons of art and it’s situated in a beautiful waterfront area with lots of shops and parks. I think the space offered some really nice context for Ian’s work.

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A glorious homestead… I loved the overhead views that dominated this exhibition. Ian works to make the wall a ground plane and affords his viewers a God’s-eye perspective. This piece has a synergy with some of the not-so-intended intensities in Thomas Kinkade works…

Grazing

Orchestration of shadowspacestructure!

Pallet! The many miniature elements in this body of work are quite beautiful to investigate and serve to focus viewers on the deeper subtexts of Ian’s work. You can read a bit more on what he’s trying to do here and here.

Egress Solution!

Rooted – this piece was especially dynamic and evocative. The lighting and overall space around the piece was also powerful – a typical aspect of Ian’s work.

Archetypal… the shapes, forms, and the interactions of mass with shadow and light, as well as the dynamics between tension, balance, and stillness are all elements of Ian’s works that helps them access a sense of the archetypal. Go see the show to learn about titles for these works and to read Ian’s longer statement about the work. Seriously, you need to experience the light and space around each work to get a true feeling for what he’s accomplishing through his playful yet intensely felt art. Good stuff. Glad I got to see it.
The show is up until September 7th, so check the Foundry’s website to get directions and hours of operation. Go there!

PS: This isn’t the first time Ian’s inspired me… Click here.

Half-light – the time of soul-sense

“Later on, again I saw the stars rushing in that great sky-arc, their pathways subtly changing over time, subtly changing tonight even as I gaze upward. I think of my place along those paths, and as I think I understand that it is no wonder that the ancients thought the earth was the center of all things. Even when one’s thoughts consider those things farthest from the self, those things impose themselves upon the self in a very physical way – an implication, an assertion. No other beings but us can know these things… To lie on the dock at 1am, the water lapping (piles softly swaying) at languid fingers, touching them with such immediacy even as light a billion years old breaks the plane of these wet eyes. A prayer offered to God. No, it is no wonder to me that the ancients thought themselves the center of all things.”

“Half-light – the time of soul-sense. It is muted sense, muted movement, and muted knowledge. When the world falls away to an edge; we are on it and in it, but at a moment of unknowing. How can we yet remain? Oh, to strain, to stretch! To allow that great letting occur, where our selves, our identities of self, are removed from our references, from our knowing. This is the pure spirit. What has happened?” – from A Mnemonic of Longing, an unpublished essay, 2002-2009.

Images from digital photos taken between May and August 2001.