This post has been parked here waiting to be edited. It's now completed.
Last week I spent an afternoon at the Art Institute of Chicago. When I taught at the School of the Art Institute about 10 years ago, I'd spend my lunch hours wondering the museum. At first it was just something to do, but eventually I'd stumble on to pieces that moved me, made me think, motivated me to focus on my own work. Being in the museum helped me realize I am artist, a craftsman, I belong in this world, I feel something when I'm surrounded by art, and it feels good.
But last week's visit was different. When I got to the museum I was agitated, I couldn't concentrate. Ironically, just that morning I made a breakthrough on the piece I've been working on for weeks, I was eager to continue working on it. I'll be done with it within a few days. The types of wood are more than difficult to work; wenge, ziricote and African blackwood. All very hard, and very expensive. No room for errors. It's technically one of the most difficult pieces I've created. Ever. I've improvised, experimented, meandered, been angry, frustrated, elated. And as a result I've found new ways, good ways to work. It's pushed me to my limit, but now, near completion, I'm confident, satisfied, pleased. Hungry for more. I'm proving to myself I'm capable. I'm working at a level I've avoided, but I can work at this level. But The Art Institute? I didn't want to spend time in the museum, I wanted to work on my own piece.
I had to force myself to go into the museum, but in only a few minutes, that feeling from my lunch hours when I was teaching, returned. It's safe here, I belong. For once, I didn't pay attention to time, I relaxed, I absorbed all that surrounded me. I went to my favorites, a small Russel Wright wood box, a George Nakashima chair and a Hector Guimard chair. Drawings by Walter Burley Griffin. American Decorative Arts. I went to the classics, Georgia O'keefe, Grant Wood's "American Gothic". I made my way to the Modern Wing, (the architecture alone is stunning). I recently discovered the work of mid 20th century contemporary abstract painters. Jasper Johns, Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock. Suddenly, out of nowhere I find myself completely drawn to their work. And then I found a Mark Rothko painting in a contemporary gallery. I couldn't take my eyes off it. It filled me, it woke me up, it explained my work to me. I could imagine him making this painting in his studio. By connecting with another man's work, my work is now more relevant than it ever has been. I'm ready. I'm ready to go. I can do this. My work is here, it belongs. A day away from my workshop, from my project, was completely, utterly productive.