For the last two nights, there have been lightning storms. Last night, I felt paralyzed by it. I arched and craned my neck to get the best view out of my window while remaining horizontal. As much as my eyes wanted to close and let the sounds of the street rock me to sleep, I kept them fixed to that silent spectacle. I started to get anxious for that fantastic cracked sky, for the electricity to split its center.
I wish my south and east facing walls were made of glass. I could live in a suspended fish bowl in order to see the lightning better.
I am a planner. I live by charts and notes in the margins. I adore order and detest disorganization. So one of the challenges of the Summer Institute in the Arts and Humanities has been to let some of this anal retentivity go. To let creativity and spontaneity take over. My original project included my research partner and I going into the Jacob Lawrence Gallery and putting up a previously written poem on different parts of the space with stencils. When stencils were thrown out, we decided to wing it, throw out convention when it comes to writing poetry, and just see where the space takes us.
Needless to say, the three days we had to do this were very, very important days.
Beginning Friday afternoon, we started construction on the first movement of the poem. I mapped out the scale and structure of the piece on a large wall an started painting. Most of my day was devoted to clean brush strokes and staying out of the way of other people in the gallery.
Saturday was to be demanding. My research partner and I were supposed to meet at 11:30, get in the space, and "create more art". He was still in Capitol Hill from the night before when 11:30 rolled around, so I headed back to my apartment.
While at my apartment, trying to regroup and re-plan, one of my very dear friends called. I have not seen her in six months, and it will be another month and a half before I see her again. Thanks to the miracle of Facebook and free cell phone talk time with people in your network, we have been able to keep in touch. We have one of those relationships where there is no starting over, no matter how long we've been apart. Time or distance has never played a role in our friendship.
She called with very sad news that I do not feel appropriate to divulge here, as it is her personal business. What I can say is that no one her age should have to go through this. I tried my best to comfort her over the phone, mentally taking her into my arms as we have done for each other in the past.
She remained on my mind the rest of the day. I was thinking about her situation when my research partner threw up outside of my car and then asked me to drive him home. When the design professor asked me to paint over the poem on the wall and consider printing it out on paper instead. When I was in the studio until 12:30 in the morning, still tracing and cutting out words on tissue paper.
I used the space as inspiration for the piece, but also as an escape. I feel so incredibly grateful to have this opportunity to work in a gallery, to be a student of the arts, to create my own little corner of the world. The process gave me some moments to sit back a bit, collect my thoughts, reflect on how badly I wanted to make everything better for my friend. That situation is out of control. But this physical space of mine wasn't. I used my head, hands, eyes and words to shape and execute. All I could do for her was keep her in my thoughts, wish the best for her, and resolve to be there when she needs me.