I am often amazed when I look back and see what has caught my eye and imagination each day. They (the images), much like my paintings feel like communion. An interchange or sharing of thoughts and emotions and a process in which messages, whispers and stories reveal themselves through a process of co-creation.
A Sense of Place (2007)
In 2007 I began a project that I called A Sense of Place. A project in which I made a commitment and a promise that I would actively and consciously engage in a practice of strengthening my relationship with the land that I lived on and the community that I was part of. The commitment was simple; everyday I would carry a camera and I would walk through the community in which I lived. My definition of community included my neighborhood/town and the natural world that was embedded, inseparable and interwoven with the constructed world of of our human interactions, inhabitance and the society had been built up around, through and upon it. I carried the camera to document my adventures, what was revealed through the process, and what my eyes had been opened to that had previously gone unseen.
I experienced and learned much in that year. I learned about the watershed that supplied flowing life to my everyday world. I learned about the cycle of life, birth, growth and death. I learned of the plants and animals that I shared the geography of my existence and the world that we all knew as our home. I learned about the impact that we curious humans have on the world around us. I also learned that the more I became aware of the movements of the world around me, the more I knew of my own rhythm, impact and my purpose within it.
The "framing" of this mysterious and gorgeous world through the lens of the camera allowed me to shift my vision. It afforded me the opportunity to slow down and see from a different perspective what on other occasions I had been moving to quickly to acknowledge, notice and see. There was something exquisitely beautiful in returning to and/or passing the same giant pine tree everyday and watching as its gorgeous, aromatic, sticky life force flowed in the spring, gummed in the summer and froze into magnificent blue, purple, white and pink crystalline structures in the arms of winter.
Interestingly enough, I do not enjoy carrying a camera when I travel to a place that is new to me or when I am a "visitor". I have a natural resistance to doing so. The further away from where my life is centered and lived on a daily basis - when I am a "tourist" so to speak, the carrying of the camera can somehow feel rude or strangely wrong. My eyes, being and senses are already so engaged and swimming in the multitude of new sounds and sights that the camera can feel like an unnecessary intrusion. In these times it can feel like I begin to rely on the camera to shift my vision and only succeed in creating a distance between myself and the newness of the environment and experience. It can also feel like I am using the cameras ability to "remember" instead of my own. I travelled to New Mexico twice a year for 5 years and completely moved my life there before I ever took a photo of that land.
However...in the place that I inhabit, in the place that I rely upon as a daily source of my existence; the camera becomes a pause and a shift in the way that I can see. It is an opening and an invitation to the world around me. I am called to notice, to see differently, to not take for granted what surrounds me as a result of the regularity with which I pass by and/or my familiarity with it.
Vision Shift (2017)
I have now been living in my current home and location for little under 6 months. I have once again found myself carrying a camera for the same reasons I did in 2007. The reason or intention that I am engaging in the process is the same as it was ten years ago. It is the process itself that is now slightly different. Technology sure has come a long way in the last 10 years.
After taking an initial photograph I do a very similar process as the one involved in the creation of my paintings. I "shift" aspects of the image; altering qualities of light, hue, distortion, inversion, contrast, etc. I think of the process and its actions as a series of doors. One door opens to reveal the next - each door revealing what had been previously unnoticeable or unseen to my eyes.
Writing on Communion (2007)
Sometimes the way a painting begins and takes form is a disorienting experience for me. Although I always feel at peace and at home within myself when I am holding the brush in my hand and watching the colors swirl into formation, sometimes I feel as if I am being deconstructed. Through the experience of creating, I am being taken apart and then recreated in ways that I do not always understand.
When a painting comes into being in this way, it usually happens with a simple and yet overwhelming feeling that some intangible form, feeling, force, thought or aspect of change is lying just beneath my surface. It feels as if it is lying in wait underneath my very skin until I am ready to accept where it will lead me, until I am ready to allow it to rise to the surface and transform my existence from the world and messages of my inner being. It is reminiscent of an alchemical process in that my senses, body, and spirit have taken in ingredients that are being mixed and transformed within, in order to be transmuted and thus transform the outer.
I have learned much from the paintings that have come through me in this way. One of the most important things I have come to understand is that I do not always need to understand. The messages of the paintings that come in this way are not meant to be instantaneously integrated, understood or easy to dissect. They are the very reflections of change themselves. Some aspect of myself, my spirit, my body, or my being is in a state of transformation and change. I have learned to accept that I do not always have neat explanations, eloquent prose, or a nice, neat, pretty bow to wrap a painting up with.
The images that take shape in this way, often continue to transmit their lessons to me for years to come. I have had the experience of looking at these paintings years after they have been brought to the canvas and understanding things that I did not, or could not have understood when the painting came into existence. I often find myself chuckling at such moments, for what I have come to understand or see has been literally right in front of my eyes for quite sometime. I will chuckle again after additional time has passed, and I come to the realization that what I thought I had finally understood had an entire additional layer and depth that I had not yet been privy to. They are my teachers and I am their student, and I experience and accept them as gifts from places and realms that are Mystery to me.
As I look at “Communion” now, I have more questions than I do answers. Is the sun setting as a result of society’s disregard and inability to be aware of the gifts and beauty of our Mother Earth, or is the sun setting because of the simple and glorious beauty that is a sunset? Is the figure on the top layer of the Earth male, or is it female? If the top figure is male, does it represent the suppression of feminine energy and the dominance of a patriarchal society or does it simply speak to the beauty of true intimacy and communion between all living forms? These are just a few of the questions that I am left with as I walk away from laying the paint on the canvas.
In Gratitude, Love and Art,
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Heather J Geoffrey