Friday, February 26, 2016

Snails in Space

Do you remember the old muppets sketch 'Pigs In Space'?  It was one of my favourites when I was a kid - something about the muppets (ahem) hamming it up as soap quality actors.

Despite this, I was never much of a space race child. Spaceflight and lunar landings didn't get much airtime in my brain until I met my husband, Doug. For him, rockets and planets and missions to Mars still hold the same mystique they did in boyhood and the recent resurgence of funding? interest? hype? regarding space travel is something he follows closely.

This sets the stage for the conversation we had in bed a few nights ago when Doug turned to me and said, "Would you like to send your artwork to space?"

"Pardon?" I asked, putting down a thick tome of Faulkner I've been working on for a month now.

"NASA is sending a spacecraft to the asteroid Bennu. They want to send art with it."

"They're going to put art on an asteroid?"

"No, they're sending submissions on a drive aboard the spacecraft. It will carry the drive into space when it collects a sample of Bennu."


"I'm not sure. I haven't read it all. Can I send an image of your work?"


And so on. I still don't fully understand what is happening, other than that an image of my work is going to be placed on a drive which will travel through space to an asteroid named Bennu and Doug is really excited about it.

So here is Doug's own explanation:

I read a lot of technology news and was amazed to discover that NASA is accepting artwork for their OSIRIS -REx mission to an asteroid, back to earth orbit and then to circle the sun forever. The submissions are digital images stored on digital medium. A fascinating initiative! After getting Kathy to buy into the crazy scheme, the artwork has been submitted and is going to space forever! Kathy is representing fibre artists of the planet Earth!

Doug and I agreed that, with it's Fibonacci spiral and discovery based theme, 'She Goes but Softly, but She Goeth Sure' best fit the exploration mandate.

So this image of my artwork is about to be sent on a journey through space.

She Goes but Softly, but She Goeth Sure, 24 x 24 x 1.5, Peruvian Wool and Beeswax on Birchwood
I have to thank Doug for the fact that I will soon be able to say that my artwork was sent to space and I am not only an internationally known artist, but interstellar as well.  

Truth really is stranger than fiction.

Monday, February 22, 2016

On Finishing and The Gordon Lightfoot's Greatest Hits Phenomenon

I admit it.  I used to have completion issues. My arts and crafts basket shelf closet studio used to be packed with almost finished and barely started projects.

Not any more, my friends. Or, to be truthful, not as often. In my ripening age, I have successfully mind hacked myself to reduce the number of UFO's showing up in my skies.

Exhibit A. 'Stranded Home' is an experimental piece that I started over a year ago. I was thinking about subject matter that naturally lends itself to a fibre medium. In early 2015, our house sold with a quick closing date and it got packed away. It's been hanging out half-finished in my 'To Finish' pile ever since.

Stranded Home, 6 x 8, Wool and beeswax on panel

Voila! Finished product accompanied by satisfaction, not so much because of the end result, but because it is finished.

And one more former-UFO (that's UnFinished Object, if you're wondering) ready to be released into the wild:

Bark, 6 x 8, Wool, bamboo, and beeswax on panel

Yes, 'Bark' is an unusual piece for me. I was literally studying the texture of bark, allowing myself only black, white and a single grey. While the end result looks very little like bark, there is something intriguing about it. Most importantly, however, I finished it!

So, obviously, I've been thinking a lot about finishing stuff lately and why I can do it now when I spent so many frustrated years getting close, only to stop short with the finish line in sight.

If my life were a movie, this part would be a montage of me throwing tantrums as I tried to force myself to finish something, scraps of fabric and yarn flying around the room in the upheaval before I managed to get a grip, calm down, and finally smile with satisfaction as I completed my first project. Repeat.

The wisdom I acquired through this process can be distilled into two points:

  1. Finishing for finishing's sake has merit. What do I mean by this? I am a self-learner. Behind most of my projects lurks something I am trying to learn - a technique, a subject, a 'what happens if I do this?'. Once I had answered that question to my satisfaction (or thought I had), I would quit, thinking I had achieved my goal. But not so. Until a piece is declared finished, there is always more to learn. And finishing things is like eating broccoli - it's good for you and builds strong bones.
  2. Every work does not have to be a masterpiece (aka 'The Gordon Lightfoot's Greatest Hits Phenomenon'.) In our world of ready access to all things 'greatest' - greatest art, greatest music, greatest people* - it is easy to forget or even be unaware of the maybe not so great work that goes on. We see only the greatest hits. And maybe we feel like everything we do has to be a greatest hit too. And if it's not, why bother finishing? You know the answer. I know you do. It's because there is value in the process. Because we learn from every piece. Because hits can't exist without the misses.
What does Gordon Lightfoot have to do with it? His music brought this lesson home to me, as follows:

I love Gordon Lightfoot's greatest hits. Don't judge me. 'If You Could Read My Mind' is perfect understated tragedy. So I decided to listen to everything he ever recorded. And, to be honest, I wasn't crazy about most of it. I preferred his 'greatest' stuff. Which is when it dawned on me that there is a reason why those ARE his greatest hits. Because they are thought to be the best of what he did. And he did some other stuff too that was maybe not so good.

So, if Gordon Lightfoot can have some hits and also some misses, why can't I? That doesn't mean I don't finish something if I think it might not be a masterpiece. It means I finish it, learn what I can from it, and move on. And over time, after years of practising my art or craft or whatever you want to call it, I too will have a body of greatest hits. Woo hoo!

But that can't happen, if I never finish anything.

* 'Greatest' is an odd word when you think about it. Isn't it like saying 'bestest'? Okay, I guess not - great, greater, greatest vs. good, better, best....but still, it sounds weird.  Just sayin'...