Seven years after doing this painting, I finally got it that one of the ways I manifest the world I want to see and the self I want to be is as an artist!
I did art all through my childhood at the progressive School in Rose Valley. At Bennington College I took life drawing every year – hence the female bodies that flow out of my hand. But I was too shy, too leery of the capital “A” Art World I tasted in college, too overshadowed by artist grandmother, father, and sister to consider myself one.
When I finished teaching at Fire Mountain School in June 1995 and was immersed in the Hero’s Journey process, I declared my intention of living a year “as if I were an artist.” It was kind of a cagey way of playing around, but I knew it was time to take to heart the advice I always gave children: just do it – don’t worry about how it looks or what people think – it will be beautiful. Praise be to Susan Walsh whose courses aren’t so much about doing art as using art as a process to grow into oneself! Our class following Heros was particularly about finding “right livelihood.” For me that was at least partly about art. Sadly, according to my journal, it was difficult to grasp and remember even in the midst of that year: “Lorraine Ortiz asked me the other day about how my year living as an artist was going. And I jumped. I swear I had forgotten – oh yeah, that’s what I’m doing, isn’t it?”
And when there was a fork in the road in that spring. I took the option of inventing Cartm Recycling Center . It had a better chance of an income and it was safer to stay with the community organizing process I knew. It was something that needed doing. But I kept painting. And I made sure art was a part of Cartm. Trash art!
Of course, really important messages have a way of hiding and then repeating themselves until you’re really ready to hear them. So it still was a surprise to me when this painter showed up during a subsequent course. I liked her but didn’t feel free to do much about her. Over the next few years, when the old paintings kept calling me to write about them and to finish them with wild “frames,” I literally kept shoving them back under the bed.
I finally got back to it in Fall, 2003, a full year after leaving Cartm. And I must say that the altars showed up as a surprise. And then I finally began to understand that with this painting I was claiming my birthright as an artist and as a conjuror/manifestor. Art really does save lives.
Thus my paintings tell the stories of my journey to this point. Some, like this one, have proved prophetic. I thought it was just a metaphor for creativity in general until new “showing” stage of work began.
Written for Out of the Ashes Show, North County Rec Center, January 2004.