Stop it and just DO

Reading the most recent post on LENSCRATCH, I was introduced to photographer Mariana Vieira. I love to read about how other artists approach their work. I was especially intrigued by her answer to this question: What nurtures and sustains your practice?

When things are good, everything nurtures my practice: a walk, a book, an exhibition, a conversation with a friend. I spend a lot of time commuting between jobs, and I love podcasts that inform and engage my brain during that “down” time. Finding time to make work is my biggest challenge, and sometimes it feels like my practice is supported by a toothpick. Those are the times I really seek nurture from a community of makers, and find just one thing to make in the studio with no consequence, just to break the ice. With other artists working in different media, we formed a critique group that meets once a month for a studio visit. It’s informal but serious, friendly but rigorous. And sometimes I just watch Benedict Cumberbatch reading Sol LeWitt’s letter to Eva Hesse on repeat.

Her response triggered several responses from me.

First, I agree that when things are good, everything nurtures my practice. I wonder how she copes with those down times when things are not good. I know that for myself I can feel on top of the world one day and then a headache strikes or conflict arises or I am irritable, and my practice suffers.  

Second, Mariana describes exactly the kind of community that I long for. Not a photography club or meet-up but a critique group comprised of a variety of artists working in different media. I learn so much from others.

Third, I had to watch the video of Benedict Cumberbatch reading Sol LeWitt’s letter to Eva Hesse. His letter was powerful and having it read aloud, as if to me, it was transforming.

To the sculptor Eva Hesse, Sol LeWitt once wrote a letter while she was living in Germany and at a point when her work was at an impasse. “Stop it and just DO,” he advised her. “Try and tickle something inside you, your ‘weird humor.’ You belong in the most secret part of you. Don’t worry about cool, make your own uncool.” He added: “You are not responsible for the world — you are only responsible for your work, so do it. And don’t think that your work has to conform to any idea or flavor. It can be anything you want it to be.”

Like an athlete after the pep rally, I headed out for an afternoon walk to make the art that is mine to make. This is what I found.

A kind gentleman with a Smokey the Bear hat, sitting outside a local coffee shop, feeding his dog treats and playing the kazoo. I kid you not. The conversation that ensued was the best Christmas gift I could have received. He asked for my favorite song, and I chose my mother’s, You Are My Sunshine, and he played with notes so sweet and clear a small crowd gathered to listen.

It’s amazing what happens when I stop trying to be cool and just see the world in my own weird way.

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