A couple of years ago, Alyson Stanfield, (ArtBiz blog), asked a question on her blog about important influences on ones art from long ago. I could have written about a lot of things, a lot of good things, but I took that opportunity to share with the world an incident that had occurred when I was a senior in high school, an incident whose emotional influence I had been unable to shake for decades, an incident that had left a very bitter taste in my mouth. There’d been no letting go for me. I thought that writing about it might provide me with some clarity, either insight or from others insights, but that didn’t happen.
Here’s what happened back in 1964: in response to a class assignment the details of which I do not remember, I created a large painting, (large for high school, the size of a standard newsprint pad), that was, for the most part, black. Towards the upper right of the surface there was a ragged splash of white. It was, to my eyes, heart, and soul, the perfect answer to whatever the challenge had been. It was darn good and I knew it. My teacher knew it too; I could see it in her eyes at critique… and the critique went well… and then she gave be a B on it, right in front of everyone. A B! I was furious. She explained her action saying that while I had indeed created a piece that perfectly illustrated what I’d been presented with, I didn’t know how I had done it. (In other words, I’d done it instinctually and for her, that didn’t count.)
I was livid. And just the memory of it, even decades later, would cause my body to respond with waves of a sense of injustice.
Here’s what happened this morning, before arising: In response to a Sleep Magic assignment that I’d created for myself, I had a dream. In the dream I had returned to some nameless high school saying that I wanted to take senior year English over, that, while I had begun it at Nether Providence, I’d never been able to complete the year because I’d gotten a fatal, incurable illness and that even though they’d graduated me, I wanted to put things in order.
I awoke wondering about the dream and what it might have to do with a Sleep Magic assignment about being more fully present to the Now moment. Still in a light hypnopompic trance, the next thing I knew I was done wondering, my mind, wandering in waves of creative thought. I made a few notes about things that I wanted to use for the paintings that I am currently involved with which are… paintings of words… sentences… English. And then it hit me, all the dots connected: the struggle I had been going through with my current work till just last week, with the words themselves… it had been about knowing why the words that worked, worked. I knew how to discriminate between what wasn’t working and what was after the fact… but until last week I hadn’t been able to figure out how I was getting to where I was ending up. I was in exactly the condition that I’d been in at that senior art class, experiencing exactly what Mrs. Sprague had been getting at.
Interestingly, once I got the ‘formula,’ once I understood what had to happen to make to words work, not only did the words come easier, my visual composition improved as well! It was wild.
So this morning – thanks to a Sleep Magic assignment I’d created for my body, in which I’d given it permission to let go of what was needed to allow me to live even more fully in the Now – this morning… I can say: I get it. Mrs Sprague wanted me to be the best I could be; wanted me to know what lay behind my process and now I understand why that is important. I get it! It makes everything both easier and better. Thank you Mrs. Sprague, wherever you are!