Within - January 10, 2020

Tonight I listened to a TEDxBYU talk by Brian Kershisnik called "Harvesting from Chaos". I've loved Brian's work since I was in college. I'm unsure what brought him into my classroom to talk with/to my teacher Doug Himes, but I saw some of his art when he was there and it took my breath away. There are just some things you know are great the first time you see them. Brian's work was amazing. He drew beautiful pictures of cedar trees (corndog trees), women in shift-type dresses and used beautiful colors like robin's egg blue and white and green and well, they were magical.

His style ended up in my work a lot and I've had to be very cognizant that I do not copy him now (but I still do in my mind). His style has seeped into a lot of contemporary LDS artists and I don't want to be considered a satellite to him.

Brian talked about creation and how chaos provides the material for creation. He told stories of going on study abroad to England and a time when he was able to do personal research at the British Museum and look at and hold actual Degas drawings. There are literally thousands of Degas drawings. When we look at books of Degas drawings, we are looking at an edited collection drawn from those thousands. And there were real stinkers in the ones he looked at. There were also drawings that he recognized as precursors to some of Degas' masterpieces. In other words, not everything from the master was masterful. There was chaos there.

Another story was about when he started his MFA program in Texas. BYU had been very nurturing, but this place was not. He felt very alone & after seeing an art show about pilgrimage, he felt that was a symbol for his life - he was on a pilgrimage (towards art or destiny or whatever). He went home and created a painting of a man lying down next to a fire along a road. You could tell he was a pilgrim because Brian had painted the word PILGRIMAGE in large letters at the top of the painting. It was a terrible painting, but he took it to his first review anyway. One of the teachers came in and walked over to that painting and said, "This painting is dumb." Brian was mortified even though he knew it was true. The teacher asked, "what is this painting about? I know it's about a pilgrim because you painted the word right here, but it looks like he's walking up the side of the painting!" And then it clicked for Brian. He took the painting home and painted out everything around the figure. He moved the horizon from the top and put it under the figure's feet. Then he had it curve up the side of the painting as though he was walking on normal horizontal ground and then up onto vertical ground into a magical place. It became a metaphor for his life.

Brian Kershisnik - Pilgrimage
He went on in the talk to say that we should be aware of what is already inside of us - pay attention - "It's not that I want you to be creative. It's that you ARE creative."

Then I watched a TEDxBYU talk by Sharon Eubank from 2013 called "Slow Thoughts". I read the comments below her talk and they were pretty dismissive. So many people said it was a talk about "slow down and smell the roses" but it wasn't that at all. She made a really weird choice at one point in her life and up and left everything (sold her house and car) to stay for a year in France. She felt empty and thought this was the way to find her dreams. For three months she woke up each morning and had no idea how to fill her time, what to do with purpose. She used to be able to talk to people and it was all about her family or her work or her whatever it was that she was doing. When she was there in France, she didn't have any of that. And she reflected about not knowing what she was without all that other stuff. She watched a pigeon outside her window sitting on a nest and she longed for purpose like the bird. One day she was on a train and watching out the windows at people working in the fields, preparing the ground, trimming the vines, planting the seeds, preparing - as an act of faith - in a harvest. And then she realized that she was ready to plant something so that she had a harvest. But what was it that she should do? And as she had that thought of "I'M READY!" it was like the wind came and blew through the smog in her mind and everything was clear. She knew what she wanted to do.

Now there wasn't enough time! And she realized that going to France had been a mistake - a red herring - distracting her from what was inside her all the time. The only thing that made a difference was slowing down. She had to walk everywhere and that's a lot of time by yourself in your own head. When you start listening to yourself, she said, you realize you have some pretty neat things to say. "I started to pay attention. I started to listen." Sharon quoted Seth Horowitz:

Listening is a skill that we’re in danger of losing in a world of digital distraction and information overload.
And yet we dare not lose it. Because listening tunes our brain to the patterns of our environment faster than any other sense, and paying attention to the non-visual parts of our world feeds into everything from our intellectual sharpness to our dance skills.
“You never listen” is not just the complaint of a problematic relationship, it has also become an epidemic in a world that is exchanging convenience for content, speed for meaning. The richness of life doesn’t lie in the loudness and the beat, but in the timbres and the variations that you can discern if you simply pay attention

She concluded with "What do you do every day with your time? And what does it say about you and the dreams you have and the things you care about?"

Today I did good things at work. I was at peace with how I interacted with others. I got half of something done that has been hanging over me and probably bothering other people (emptying boxes off a table from a branch that's closed down for refurbishing). Then I came home and Brian offered to get me sushi for dinner (yay!!!!) and we played Pokemon Go for a little bit together (while waiting for my order to be ready) before taking it home and having dinner together as a family, watching a little Series of Unfortunate Events on Netflix and then I came in the art room to do this:

I think I'll stop with this. 


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