Mar 26, 2009

Let the light catch you

Another issue I was exploring during my month as Esalen was how to be more successful with my art. Even though I currently have "horizon" on display at Humboldt State University and have been reasonably successful getting that series out into the world, the "Portrait" skin grids have been largely met with indifference. I haven't given up, nor have I done a full marketing launch of them, but with the exception of the PhotoNow 2008 show at Center for Photography at Woodstock the reception thusfar has been lackluster.

OK, so what? Art isn't about marketing, it's about a personal vision. And I'm still as excited about the conceptual underpinnings of "portrait" as when I started. My issue is that they were a ton of work to shoot, a ton of work to prepare, a ton of work to make display-ready...and very expensive every step of the way. The cost and time required to experiment with them has been a major inhibitor in pushing the series forward.

So with this angst as the backdrop I took a shamanic journey to seek the answer to the question "How can I be more successful with my art?" In this case I journeyed to the upper world (one of the three shamanic realms, all populated with benevolent spirits) and met up with my real-world friend Meg, whose spirit acts as my companion in the upper world, and my teacher, whose spirit directs me toward the answers I seek. In this case he led me to the edge of the cloud-like environment where I always meet him, pointed to the abyss below and encouraged me to leap. Upon seeing my fear and hesitation he replied with "Let the light catch you." Yes it's another variant on "leap and the net will appear", yet my phrase was more poetic and not one I had ever heard before. And as a photographer it obviously has special meaning to me.

The notion of letting go and giving into "the light" came up again the following week. One of our class exercises was to pick a card at random from a deck of "cloud cards" that our shaman instructors Nan and David had created. We were then asked to interperate and share the meaning of the card we had drawn. My selection may have been a coincidence, but whatever encourages introspection and analysis is valid in my book.

My take-away is that I'm probably trying too hard with "portrait". Overworked work lacks a freshness that comes from a more visceral approach. Of course I knew that already, but the magic of my month at Esalen was how things that I already knew kept coming back to me in ways that more impactful and more likely to result in a change in my behavior.

Call it spirits, leprechauns, divine inspiration or dumb luck, what matters are the results.

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