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About With the Moon in Mind

In the event of a full solar eclipse, the Moon moves between the Sun and the Earth for a short period of time, obscuring the Sun’s light from the surface of our planet. Taking inspiration from this moment of eclipse and the symbolism within the interactions of the celestial bodies, With the Moon in Mind presents a series of intuitive drawings, paintings, and prints that invite the viewer to embrace their own arational mind and interpretive capacity. Many schools of thought associate the Sun with rational thinking and the conscious mind; the Moon with intuition and the subconscious. Symbolically, in the moment of eclipse when the Sun is obscured by the Moon, the subconscious takes the forefront. We can sense this shift on many levels – the world darkens, the air noticeably cools, birds quiet and return to nests to roost for the night, and insects begin to sing their evening songs. The initial processes for creating With the Moon in Mind follow that symbolic shift. I allow rational, conscious methods of design and execution to take a backseat to intuitive ways of ideation and mark-making. But just as the Sun’s corona peeks out from behind the moon, conscious decision making also  becomes part of my process in the development of each piece.

For the last few years, I have taught an online course titled Experiments in Creativity in which students are given a series of assignments requiring them to use unconventional methods such as chance techniques, automatism, spontaneous action, and play rather than pondering, planning, and precision. The course borrows techniques from Dada, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, and so-called “folk” or “outsider” art with the aim of helping participants working in any creative genre overcome creative blocks and stretch beyond limiting habits. With the Moon in Mind is this kind of exploration of the creative act itself and what can manifest when we get out of our own way.

For the main work in this exhibition, I employed one of my own exercises from the Experiments class. In this exercise that I call “Lithomantic Composition,” six colored stones are scattered across the page. Prior to use, each stone is assigned an action based on the its symbolic significance. To build the drawing, I perform the associated actions on the page in the areas where the stones have landed.  For 

example, tiger’s eye is said to encourage confidence, so where it lands on the page, I have to make a large mark with a bold color. Red jasper is thought to promote stamina, so where it lands, I must repeat a word, phrase, or  visual mark. For each new piece, I repeated the exercise, accumulating this series of intuitive works that have no preconceived theme or story I wanted to tell. A story, however, seemed to emerge every time as I worked my way through the exercise. Colors, chosen, first intuitively or at random, began to suggest other particular colors to use next. Shapes begat other shapes. Images came to mind based on what had already formed on the page. At some point in crafting each composition, I suddenly knew what the piece wanted to be about. Now, in my mind, each one of the works in With the Moon in Mind has a story to it, and all of them are interconnected. The titles for these pieces give hints at those stories, all related to my recent move to this community and the interesting and challenging experiences I have had making an old house my new home.

That said, I believe these loose compositions remain infinitely flexible. As the stories I have attached to them were not intentional, there is still the possibility for many more explanations beyond my own. I invite viewers to actively participate in interpretation rather than passively receive the narratives I have suggested for them. And if no story forms when looking, or no sense of a concrete theme develops, that’s also fine with me. I believe making direct sense of something is overrated.   Insistence on knowing one central Truth to a work of art blocks true experience of its essence. It’s not necessary to know what a picture is about. As the Abstract Expressionist artist Elaine DeKooning once said, “Explanations are for other people    burdened by logic;” or perhaps put a bit less cheekily, as the abstract painter Agnes Martin did, it’s satisfying when art simply delivers to us “subtle emotions that we feel without cause in this world.”

 

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