All in Visual Art

The Zen of Seeing

So rather than read further, which would’ve been much easier, I decided to take the ballpoint pen and lined notebook paper and draw what was right before me — and do it quickly, without proper paper or the need to prettify my work. I did opt for color because the green was so lush and bright with the afternoon sunlight shining through the leaves, so I found a couple of green markers and sat there in the sun happily coloring away, like I often did as a child. Did I capture the head of Romaine perfectly? Not at all. But did I begin to glimpse its infinite beauty, the curtain of one leaf folded inside another, the veins like tiny circuitry? I did, indeed.

We wanted to respond by making, not just critiquing or even experiencing. In fact, we spent our four-hour drive home that evening discussing work and beginning to outline several collaborative projects. We were intellectually and emotionally exhausted, yet enlivened for work (our various cups of coffee throughout the day helped, too). These paintings cause the viewer to take a life-giving, culture-making posture before she even realizes that she has begun to stand. This is the generative nature of good art/work.
Despite my deep longing to be among the ranks of what I call the “true” artists, the kind who can effortlessly dress themselves in wonderfully whimsical, sophisticated clothing and decorate their homes with lovely abstract art that has deep roots in poetic allusion, I am really too poorly dressed and my home too pathetically decorated to ever count myself among their ranks.
I dream of the world as sacred space — as a living cathedral. Man-made cathedrals merely echo the natural world with its soaring sequoias, canyons, oceans, mountain peaks. This world was made by a Maker who loves and enters the creation to know it from the inside. This Maker is not aggressive or possessive as we humans understand Him, but is rather hidden, loving, generous to a fault.
I absolutely think that the history of frequent moves, adjusting, new people — all that affects my making today. It takes a lot of courage to be a maker of any kind. It requires many decisions, commitments, and lonely times in your head. The nomadic life built up my courage for new things and change, sort of immunized me to sameness, and made me invite the adventure of mystery and unknown.
The mountain doesn’t look like the mountain when you’re on it. Often enough, it doesn’t look like much at all. Like standing only a few inches away from one of Georges Seurat’s pieces, all I see are points of color. It’s just dots, at least that’s true to some degree. Yet I’d venture a guess that Seurat was not primarily or initially moved by a vision of tiny marks on a canvas but that he took up the brush and diligently, meticulously made those millions of tiny marks because he was moved by a vision of sand and water or skin and eyes.
There is never a simple answer to the question I am frequently asked: “What do you do with your time when not touring or playing music?” Perhaps the better question is, Why do you do what you do? Why cull together (more like cobble) a mishmash income year-in and year-out — each year the same, each one different, each one in hindsight a miracle? The years carry with them the same struggle, the same burden, only clothed in different hides. Some years are grimier, more pungent than others.

That word: struggle.
If, however, you are a person who needs to gear up to visit an art museum, if you feel anxious about the way these hallowed halls of priceless history and beauty leave you feeling — how should I say it? — a little dumb, read on. I’m going to tell you how to walk into an art museum like you own the place. I’m going to liberate your conscience, affirm your intelligence, give you focus, and teach you how to develop a lifelong love of not only art but of the museums that house it.
In late October and early November 2011 we celebrated Art House America’s twentieth anniversary. With three events — two in our home, the Art House, and one at The Village Chapel near downtown Nashville — we looked back over twenty years of Art House history; enjoyed amazing music, beautiful food, and the company of people from all eras of the Art House America story. Twenty years still seems quite extraordinary when we look back on our beginnings.
Because my life is filled with ordinary moments, ordinary things are often the subjects of my photos. A table setting, the unmade bed, flowers in the garden, my little one scooting across the floor: these were the things that filled my life and comprised my days. This was the stuff my photography was made of. It was a challenge to find beauty in my daily life, but I searched continually. It multiplied my gratitude. I recorded my days and gave thanks.
Reading was an escape, but not an unhealthy one. It didn’t enable me to deny my grief or the strain our family was under. It didn’t distract me from my children or make me wish for another life.

In fact, the simple act of allowing myself the luxury of literature served to inspire my days with my children. I was a better thinker — more happy, more energized, and more full. Reading served as a wholly reparative act, something that offered renewal at a time when everything felt out of sorts.