Unanswered Questions to Ponder

The front yard roses may still bloom but, these days, they are covered in frost.  Summer bloomed with such intensity that I was sure loads would get crossed-off the list. Now, as we’re approach mid-October, projects started in May are just now coming to fruition.

I think each has been worth the wait. But I’ll let you decide. First up…

Artist Marie Cameron accepted a commission for a series on Onlyness. Artist Photo Marie Cameron with Shame Silece and Oblivion and DahliasYou might remember her? She did the piece, entitled Bliss, which I purchased for my birthday last year. She captures the inherent duality of every story. As the project wraps, we sat down to talk through what we learned about the creative process, and onlyness, so it might inspire your own creative work.

When we first met, you showed me an amazing piece of art with abalone and a cross, and you told me of the place and context that fueled your work. The story created more meaning for me. I’m curious — is art always personal in nature?

Mussel shells and a cross  – Memento Mori was the name of that piece, my ode to Nova Scotia and a little church I used to own.

I don’t think art always has to be personal in nature but I do think it’s better to be making work from a point of conviction or experience, some place that’s close to your heart or from some obsession that you can’t seem to shake.

It’s a kind of honest place.

If you can’t make work that’s meaningful to yourself, than what’s the point? What chance would it have of touching others in the end?

Such truth.

I think it applies to each person’s “art”, in whatever form that comes. How do you tap into a point of view — is there a process you have, a way you approach it?

A point of view comes from a lifetime of engagement (people, surroundings, techniques and materials), which is filtered through our own innate sensibilities.

It’s honed with practice and continues to evolve with new exposures. I like to think of my studio as a hot house for this process. I fill mine with inspirational objects, with a few pivotal pieces, to keep me on track, and more than a few half-baked works in progress.

They hang about like unanswered questions to ponder. I keep them around until I either discover the answer or find that the question isn’t relevant to me anymore.

I remember when I was leaving Rubicon and starting to write more, I worried to my friend Jimmy Guterman, “how will I be inspired?” He chuckled, as if I had lost my mind. But I was really worried. As in: Really, really worried. Obsessively So. But what I’m coming to realize in the subsequent 3 years is that ideas are always there, just waiting for us to notice them. Some people might write them down, some people might sketch. I know you take photos to remind you of places, and times.

Yes, you need to present to your ideas. Doing email or tons of busy work doesn’t typically bring them forward.

How would someone who is not an artist apply this in their life work? 

Well, for an artist a unique point of view is key. But isn’t it important for anyone to honor the journey which they’re on, to do work they believe in and are perhaps specifically suited for? To use their voice to say something maybe only they can say?

For this, self-awareness is essential.

Oh and focus and dedication and hard work. It’s not easy but entirely doable.

This reminds me of Michael Bungay Stainer’s recent advise, on “just one thing”. 

I think we can make all of this easier by surrounding ourselves with reminders of our passions, it could be anything – music, objects, photos, events or environments that opens up our unique self, and let’s her out to play.

You and I have been collaborating on a series tied to Onlyness and the remarkable strength each person has by finding it, owning it. What struck you about the project when we first started talking of it?

Onlyness_Marie Cameron

Your concept of Onlyness really resonated with me; after all, it’s the very world I inhabit.

Onlyness is everything to an artist; it’s our reason for being, our lifelong journey, our bread and butter, our claim to fame, and our passion! Without striving for and celebrating the idea of onlyness, art would be generic and mundane it would be craft and shallow.

By being aware of and owning our onlyness, our work gains distinction and power. Work created from this wellspring at our core holds an authenticity that is unique and even moving because it comes from the truth of who we are. In the end, I think it’s all about sharing our truth with others.

Funny thing about authenticity is that everyone says they want that but they rarely want to be that open themselves, to see themselves that fully. It is as scary as it is appealing. Marie Cameron Art

Yet, what’s the other choice? To hide? To dampen? To deny?  That’s like a death to your soul. The soul wants to be boundless.

Yes. Oh yes.

So, the series we did was obviously on Onlyness but we worked together to identify images and ideas for your inspiration. What was the process like for you?

We knew we wanted the pieces to fit to Bliss, which set the size conditions, then we identified things that sparked for you. Like Wonder Woman which is an icon of feminism and power. But also, the lotus flower, which is the meaning of your name.

I think the very method of assemblage illustrates the dynamism of Onlyness. By pulling together and combining diverse often unrelated elements, you not only harness the history and connotations of those often disparate objects and textures, but you create something new and different – that’s exciting.

The use of the familiar gives the pieces a ring of comfort and truth but once you place them in creative context they can either reinforce the meaning of a like object or contradict the meaning of an unlike object  – either way it can make for a powerful situation.

Wonder_Marie CameronYes, I was so amazed that you had found some Russian military outfit to include on Kapow. In fact, the entire process has given me so much insight into how incredibly rich your work is… what goes into it?

In Wonder for instance, I used both military and fashion jewelry stars and put a twinkle in her eye to refer concepts of strength, style, and inspiration. The lotus chakra layered in the background speaks to a source of inner power. The painted image of Wonder Woman was based on a cropped photo I’d taken of street art in San Francisco in the late 90’s and brings with it an element of pop culture which is elevated by it’s new self-reflective context.

Text is a strong graphic element on its own but here the three dimensional ceramic word demands even more attention and the subject’s gaze directs the viewer’s gaze to the word as well emphasizing its importance. All of these aspects make for work that’s more compelling that if was created through a single medium or a single viewpoint.

Each of these little assemblage paintings are meant to work on their own, but hung as a group they feed off each other.

Individually they are like a sentence but together they become a conversation.

Through the process of commissioning and curating pieces that called out to you Nilofer, this series really becomes a portrait of you.

And I’m so lucky to share them with the readers!


Know more about Marie, her art and her creative process:

I plan on using these visual art pieces for upcoming moments at the mic, and, so if you see it from a stage, now you know who made them! Thanks Marie for sharing your work with me and ultimately with so many others…




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