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Several people have asked about the collaborations John and I did that didn’t make it into the book. We were still working on a few when the print deadline passed, so those three combo pieces are on display at Swarm but not included in Call & Response.

I think Three Faces of Frustration was the most difficult for me to complete. John had finished the drawing, and I felt like I knew what it was about, but I couldn’t get a handle on how to approach the companion piece. I just stared at that drawing for weeks, not knowing how to begin. Here’s a picture of John’s work:

Three Faces of Frustration

After a couple of overly serious, unsatisfying attempts at exploring the theme of artistic frustration, I finally hit upon a humorous angle that worked. Well, I think it did. You’ll have to let me know. One of the reasons I focused on the rug was that John spent a very long time on the details of that pattern. But really, it’s about hitting a creative block. I kept thinking about that scene in Adaptation, in which Nicolas Cage can’t write without coffee and a muffin.

Here’s the full text of my part in the collaboration. You can see the drawing and writing together at Swarm through November 6th.

Three Faces of Frustration –

This rug is good. It keeps me centered, gives me a point of focus. I’d like it better if it were round, but Target only carried the ovals. I know I should buy from a local store, but doesn’t this look handmade? They’re so good at replication now. No wonder our jobs go to China.

I study this rug when I’m stuck on a piece, as though the floor might talk. But the floor remains neutral when it comes to inspiration. Walls are better for that. Very opinionated, my walls. They definitely speak when I’ve failed. I’ve found them less generous in doling out praise. Walls can be fickle, you know.

I fail a little too often, which gives the walls something to do. When they become critical, I stare at the rug. Its silence allows me to think. I trace the spiral pattern from the outer edge to its tiny, central knot. Then I coil my way back out again, like Dorothy on her way to Oz. This offers a kind of mental release. Some people call it meditation. To me, it’s more like cleaning the house. I sweep the dust bunnies out of my mind to make room for better things.

Sometimes this exercise works really well, and the images start to flow. Then I neglect the rug for a while. I wonder if it feels used? It’s cruel of me to give it attention only when I am lost, only when I need something from it, and when I’m in a foul mood. What kind of relationship is that? Awfully one-sided, it seems. I wouldn’t take such abuse myself. But then again, I’m not a rug.

I could be nicer to the poor little thing, maybe wash it once in a while. I’ve painted my studio walls a few times, yet they never cease to complain. I wonder if a fancier rug would lessen my frustration? Not that I don’t like the quaint, crafty look; it makes me feel at home.

I’m probably deflecting responsibility away from where it lies. I can’t blame a rug for all of my faults. May as well blame my pen. This whirl of woven fabric has been kind to humor me. I recommend getting one of your own. At $4.99, it’s a bargain.


From → Art, Books, Oakland

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