In the Stillness / by Hayden Michelle

"Passengers", 2016

As I was walking this morning, I was reflecting on the deep need I have had for stillness these past many weeks.  As I coped with the decline and death of my mother, I felt my life come to a halt as I witnessed my mother's leaving.  I simultaneously experienced the force of life going on, ready or not.  It has been a most intense experience, and will be an ongoing process, I am sure.  But what has struck me most is that I have really craved quiet and stillness, a time to recover from the hectic pace that we have carried on for weeks (months, and this past year, especially).   I have just wanted to sit and watch the indigo buntings that fly by swiftly with their turquoise flash of wings, to feel the rush of air as hummingbirds zoom past, or to register the soft landings of swallowtails on the cone flowers so abundant on the hills below.   This is a big shift from my usual pace and flow of energy, where my days are full of caring for my family and surroundings, and making time to create whatever art can come forth.  It is good for me to let myself have this quiet and connection with nature as often as possible, as nature brings deep solace, comfort, and healing.

"Evening Descent", 2016

As I have gotten back into my studio, I have soaked up the silence and rhythm of working with my hands, and letting them express in a way deeper than words.  The first piece I finished began with a photograph of coral, taken through a glass specimen case in a biology building at Indiana University.  As I carved through the crevices in the image, I thought of the many creases in our brains that hold memory, experience, feelings... all the parts that make up who we are.  I reflected on my mother, and how full her life was, and how many of these memories, short-term and long ago, faded away as she declined in her disease.  And just like the coral remained intact and beautiful in its' solid remains of life, so did my mama's spirit-- in how she handled her decline, and as we hold her spirit dear, still.  She was so positive in how she faced the challenges in her life, and showed through example how to put your best foot forward.  I titled the piece, "Ascension from the Ocean Floor", and felt some catharsis in allowing this 2D image to become full in a new entity, which I imagined would rise up from the ocean floor and experience a new way of being.  Somehow, this provided comfort...

(Original photograph of coral, with relief carving into multiple layers of encaustic)

"Ascension from the Ocean Floor", 2016

(detail, "Ascension from the Ocean Floor")

(detail, "Ascension from the Ocean Floor"... love how the light comes through the vessel)

I then began to work with the remnants edges surrounding that sculpture, transforming them into small forms.  It was nice to watch them take on their own identities, and to begin to coalesce into a collective whole.  There was much patience and deep breathing as I applied the minute detail on each piece, and I reflected on how these same elements are needed throughout our lives as we take on the various ups and downs that are inherent in life.  I am grateful for the grounding of my breath, and the reminder that sometimes it is all we need to do to keep going. When I was photographing the sculpture, my 12 year old son remarked that they looked like passengers, which so embodied how I felt about them.  We are all passengers in this life, separate in our selves, but together in the journey.   More comfort...

"Passengers", 2016

(detail, "Passengers", 2016)

"Passengers", 2016

And this last piece I also completed in July, during exploration of some health issues I have been having.  I had spent the late parts of spring and early summer contemplating certainly the decline of my mother's health, but examining and appreciating my own, as well. As my mother's ability to walk changed from unsteady to wheelchair to bedbound, I thought much on the freedom that mobility allows us, especially on our own accord.  Every morning as I walked in the predawn light, I offered gratitude that my legs could carry me, still.  Having any changes in our health is a stark reminder that we are not guaranteed smooth sailing, making it vital to remember what we have every day.  At least, that is my lesson, and one which I am trying to view in the most positive light.

 (detail, "What Does it Mean to Move?", 2016)

(detail, "What Does it Mean to Move?", 2016)

 (detail, "What Does it Mean to Move?")

(detail, "What Does it Mean to Move?")

 I think of the many that lost this freedom of movement as I worked for years in nursing homes and hospice, and as I watched my Mama.  I was inspired daily by how they could keep a sense of humor, perspective, gratitude, and open loving energy, despite their restrictions.  Such gifts they shared.  So it is this energy and awareness which went into the piece, "What Does it Mean to Move?".  The original photograph is of handmade art glass which I had in my collection for the making of stained glass.  I thought about how glass is made, the solid crystals becoming fluid when heated, and how they form an unknown composition, until the hand of the artist helps direct them before they cool.  When the photograph was layered in much wax, I began the carving process, imagining what some of the flow lines might have been, and creating form within form.  I then added color through powdered pigment to accentuate new and existing color. The piece is mounted to a cradled birch panel that is in a floating frame, which seems fitting, now that I think about it!  We all need more time to float :).  

 "What Does it Mean to Move?", 2016

"What Does it Mean to Move?", 2016

I feel so fortunate to have art as a means of expression, healing, and connecting with others, and am grateful to have been able to share here, again...  Thank you for taking the time to read through and join in my process, and have a day full of whatever movement you need or desire!


 

 

 


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