A New Way of Being in the World

Walt Whitman Examining a Butterfly

Skill is something an artist understands intimately. It is the very means by which we convey our intentions and express meaning in our work. It is the method by which the very sensations that I feel or am compelled to feel by my subject are transferred to the viewer. Without this skill I am almost mute. As a poet is able, with few words, relate a wealth of feeling, so too must the artist, visually touch on the same poetic nuances. The artist through their skill, their craft, their hands and vision embody reality in a singular way.

The artists’ engagement is a type of embodiment in the world. I am present, I am engaged and I am open in mind and spirit. The artist takes on this role of embodiment and presents a new way of conceiving the world and one’s place in it. This skill, this sensitivity of one’s hands to craft matter creates a connectivity between myself and all living things. And this sensitivity provides an emotional framework that opens one up to envision reality in a new way by placing things in their proper relationship of meaning. This is not a rational knowing but an intuitive knowing that is more intimate, more personal.

Objects in the world carry an emotive logic that connects to my humanness. My body and those animate and inanimate objects in the world, share an intertwining of substance (we are made of the same atoms), a moment in time (which we presently occupy together), and a spacial proximity (a physical relationship). But this is not something that we can possibly be always conscious of. Most times we are unaware of this connection. The meaning has been obscured, our eyes glaze over. But the artist through his practice and engagement- his attentive gaze- establishes an awareness, a re-connection, between himself and the life force that makes this world a living, breathing thing. It is the only reason that the artist keeps at it.

Because of the artist’s willingness to take on an attentive posture, re-engaging with objects in the world, art becomes a humanizing act both for the artist himself, as well as, all those that may see his work. Through this tactile skill and open awareness I become more human, more empathetic, more emotionally tied to others, more open to the unexpected- to things too subtle to see outright. I am most human, most alive, when empathy becomes a pattern of being and enriches my creative engagement allowing me to become highly attuned to those images that are seeking to find material form, to find an embodiment in the world.

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Author: Judith Reeve

For nearly 30 years I've developed my painting practice in the studio, building on what I leaned from my student days at the Lyme Academy of Fine Art. Along with my daily journey creating images which I write about here on this blog, I am also currently writing a book on the color practice of Robert Henri.

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