Pam Farrell wrote a provocative piece on her excellent blog, P Farrell artblog, that explores the relationship between the artist and the studio. (Anyone interested in this discussion should go to her site and consider participating in a challenge she has posted.)
Part of every artist’s consciousness, the space where the work gets done holds a powerful place in the creative terrain. The studio in an artist’s life can range from the most disorderly, inarticulate mess—the gritty “rag and bone shop” in Yeats’ unforgettable terminology—to a sacred sacristy, the vestral sanctuary that makes silence feel appropriate.
My experiences over the years with the complex concept of studio have taken me to stops all along that spectrum. And even more complex is the symbiotic relationship that can emerge between the maker and the place, one that has its a metaphysic all its own.
Case in point: About a week ago I had a very powerful dream about my studio space being destroyed. In that vague, non-linear cinematography that is typical of dreams, it wasn’t clear if the space had been burned out by a fire or simply demolished. But when I arrived at the building, the space I have been inhabiting for 10 years was in shambles.
Vivid and disquieting, the image was very present when I awoke. My husband David let me talk it through with him, and the verbalizing helped smooth out the sharp edges of discomfort. In the helpful language of dream analysis, what is that destroyed studio part of me? What does it represent?
No great insights came to mind in our morning talk, and I left it to simmer on the back burner. So the image was not at the forefront of my mind when I walked into my studio later that day and discovered that the oversized bower built at one end of my gallery space had collapsed.
Built as an installation ten years ago by Gerald Horne, dear friend and architect of my studio, this structure has served as a kind of altar and power source. Gerald designed it as his homage to the grounded, earthy energies as well as the expansive cerebralities since both inform and inspire my work. We named it Inanna’s Bower after the Sumerian goddess of sexual love, fertility and warfare, whose story is one of the oldest myths on record. While the large beaked overhang that represented the mental constellations of logic collapsed, the sturdy Venus of Willendorf legs held strong, undamaged by the calamity.
The poetic symbolism of this bifurcated collapse is rich, but perhaps it is best to just say adieu and move into what comes next. Gerald asked if a funeral would be appropriate. I suppose the two of us will honor the bower’s passing with some ritual of our own making, as is our want. But in the meantime, I feel an unexpected comfort from having been gifted with a preparatory dream. Like animals who can sense when an earthquake is coming, don’t we all long for a human emotional warning system? How that works, I have no idea, but I am open and ready for additional dispatches in the future.
Unfortunately saying doesn’t make it so.