I can now see an end to the year 2020. Introspection almost feels redundant, since the entirety of 2020 has been one of turning inward. What more is there to acknowledge, repent about, and commit to for the new year? But I have discovered that there is always more — more to think about, more to know, more to learn, more to work toward.
So here I am at the end of the year staring at a painting I began in 2017, finished in 2019, and finished again in 2020. This 18×24-inch mixed-media painting, called “Hatching Myself,” exemplifies my art practice as a sacred, generative personal experience. If you look closely, you can see that I used my own handwriting to create lines around the edges, as a design element. I wrote “The sacred path is the one I am on.”
Because the mark-making itself is a meditative practice for me, I wrote the same sentence over and over, around the edges near the frame as well as around the edges of the oval egg-symbol. The artwork also includes torn pages from an old teacher’s edition composition textbook, collaged to appear as if descending from the oval. The words from the book have no particular meaning for me (yet), but around each of the torn pieces, I wrote words like renewal and metamorphosis and transformation. Wishful thinking? Or prayers? Both, depending on the day or the perspective.
The various parts of the painting morphed piece by piece, layer by layer as I attempted to adjust to a major move. I also felt a bit ashamed that I wasn’t adjusting well. I thought there was absolutely no reason for me not to be rapturous, and that made me feel worse. The truth was that I felt besieged. Disrupting the shame cycle occurred only by going to my studio, which I do every day, and making art. Each time I looked at “Hatching Myself,” I saw another piece I wanted to add, and I kept on adding layers and marks and more writing on the canvas.
Today I look at “Hatching Myself,” knowing it has been constructed piece by piece onto that canvas over several years, and I think I may be on the threshold of understanding what this rather unusual piece has to say to me.
This is it (for now):
I am here at this time, in this place, in all my flawed humanity. Even if I feel besieged and I scramble to make myself a better human, I must acknowledge that I am here on my path. It is a sacred path. And regardless of the kind of mess I’m making in my attempts to transform myself — even hatching myself feet first–the path remains a sacred one. And if that is true, why must I resist the struggle? Why not simply accept that at this moment, I feel overwhelmed? And instead of flailing in panic like a person who fears drowning, why can I not lean into the water, on my back– my most vulnerable position — and trust in the water’s buoyancy.
So for now, I dare myself to trust in that measure of grace — unearned, unearnable and invisible but keeping me afloat as surely as the water under me when I float. I am in the water and the water is in me. I think of Ntozake Shange’s words, “I found God in myself, and I loved her/loved her fiercely.”*
*Ntozake Shange’s choreo-poem, “for colored girls who considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf”