How funny, I just noticed my last blog post started with a line that has been left hanging there for over six months. When people visited my website and blog, the first thing they saw was something about “constipation.” Sheesh! How’s that for clueless marketing?
Anyway, today’s post is inspired by a question I got last week at a show I did at the Walter’s Cultural Art Center. Someone asked, “What makes them ‘Prayer Flags?” I find it best to explain what I make by explaining the process of making it. Otherwise the temptation is there to launch into all sorts of ethereal philosophical purposes and meanings that may feel vital to me as an artist but have nothing at all to do with the person standing in front of me. As an artist, I don’t believe my job is to express so much what I see, feel, believe as it is to express from the place of unknowing.
So, what makes these “fiber collages with free-style machine stitching,” “Prayer Flags”? Here’s what I know about working from the place of unknowing: When a Prayer Flag (PF) is presented to me via a commission from a patron or through intuitive “downloading” (as I call it), my job is not to design or plan or express. My job is to listen. So, in listening, whether to patron or the universal creative energy I call “the Great Collaborator,” images, colors, words which are already swirling around in the ether begin “to land.” As that continues, I show up. I go to my studio and listen some more even as I select fabrics and fibers and begin creating what is forming in my mind. Listening is vital throughout the process because, I have a strong ego that likes to step in and present its own ideas. So, the act of creating these pieces is a practice of laying down the ego and allowing the art, the intentions, to emerge from the silence as I listen.
The other piece is that the words chosen for the flags become a sort of living mantra that accompanies not just the act of creating but also infiltrates my life. As a result, I am more homed in on the word in daily life and begin seeing and hearing it with frequency. Because I am listening. So, the time frame of creating a PF becomes a month or two-month meditation on one (or a couple) words. The thing that make them PF for me is this process of listening and laying down the ego; but also what happens is that the process begins to deconstruct my own understanding of the word/intention/prayer and not only is my ego lain aside, but my sense of “knowing,” is also pretty much scoured out (an image of my sitting at the sewing machine feeling scoured is something I may someday make a PF about) and emptied.
What happens then is, if I am able to stay the course, and move through the utter emptiness and unknowing, eventually new understandings begin to flow into me that are not about my ego or my “knowing.” And this, THIS is indescribably beautiful. At this point, the channel having been cleared simply allows the flow of creation to happen. This is ecstasy. It is immeasurably humbling and exhilarating simultaneously.
So, what makes them “Prayer Flags,” in my understanding is that they are infused with the stories, energies and fibers from thousands of lives (98-99% recycled materials) and with the mantra they express through my practice. The edges are irregular symbolizing the release from confines of ego into the universe. My prayer is that some of this is felt by the observer in some way that releases them as well.