Spring Dancers (Or, How a Work is Created, from Inspiration to Completion)
One of the most frequent questions I get (and I'm sure most artists get) is where do I get my inspiration from for my work. Which is a little like asking someone to describe the color blue. Which shade? On what? To whom?
One of my favorite pieces of all time, "Spring Dancers" came about from a couple of seemingly normal conversations. The first conversation occurred as I was setting up my first studio space in The Art Loft, where I shared the building with nine other artists. I had moved in my full-size mannequin with all of her saucy attitude, when one of the ladies asked if they could borrow her some time for life drawing, as no one felt comfortable baring it all in the name of art. Then that night, I had a phone conversation with a friend, and we were discussing body image issues. One thing led to another in the course of the conversation, and I remember blurting "Wouldn't it be great if women could get to a point where we are so comfortable with our bodies that we would be willing to, oh I don't know, dance naked in the forest or something?" Yeahhhhhhhh, riiiiiiiiight.
That night I had the first dream. Stylized stick women, dancing around in their all-together. Fluffy girls, with saggy breasts and wide thighs... one had only one breast - the survivor of breast cancer... short, tall, coordinated, not-so-coordinated... All different, and all celebrating the intrinsic beauty they each possessed.
Over the course of the next few days, "the girls" came to life under my pencil. Then the colors were picked for each of them (I feel I had very little to do with this - they sort of picked themselves???), and their positions on a large window where they would come to life were decided. I positioned and re-positioned them multiple times before they were all where they were supposed to be.
THEN! Then, the greatest thing started to happen! (Okay, so here's where it gets a little weird... If you're not into all the sort of 'airy-fairy' sort of thinking, you may want to skip this part, but it's a really great part of the story because IT REALLY HAPPENED!) So, in pretty short order, "the girls" presented themselves to me... Each had a name, a life history and baggage she had accumulated over her life time. And they were all connected to one another in some way. I'm not going to tell you all their stories, because I think it will be a book (!) if you can believe that!!!
I had help/input/insight from two very good friends through the creation process. Neither of them live here, so I'd spend hours on the phone, sending photos, texting back and forth... and "the girls" became somewhat real to them as well. They were great with things like "Why is Miriam's arm that shape?" and "That green long rectangle that's just behind Anya's left knee looks off kilter." In addition, I was spending hours at a time in the wee hours of the morning creating a manuscript about these women, their backgrounds and what each was thinking during this process they were undergoing.
So finally, the day came when the piece was complete. WHEW! But looking at it in its final state, I was struck with a feeling that I had failed! You couldn't see them very well! The green around them overpowered the bodies, and their movements.
"Of course you didn't fail," my friend Marissa said. "I think what you created for the girls is a perfect rendition. Think about it," she continued. "If they finally got the courage to dance naked in the forest for the first time, wouldn't they really feel most comfortable hiding in plain sight?" And that's what they are! HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT! (Don't I have the most fabulously intelligent friends?!?!? Of course I do!)
Oh! Let me back up a little and introduce Berit to this story! Berit came into my studio while I was working on the background - maybe 1/2 way through it??? And after telling her a little of the story and feeling really weird doing so with a complete stranger... (how do you tell someone "They come to me at night and tell me their stories."???) she decreed that she must own "The Girls" for herself! WOW!
So... their first foray into the forest wasn't "The End" I thought it was. "The Girls" still had something to learn and they had something to continue to teach me, and others, I was soon to discover.
Right after finishing "Spring Dancers" and thinking I would move on to something else, but I started creating individual pieces of each girl. Along with a word that was specific to them. Words like "Evolve" and "Expect" and "Quest"... I knew they struck chords in me, but I didn't realize how much they would strike chords in others as well. So, in a matter of a week or so, out popped six individual pieces, all around 8x10" size.
When I finished those, I knew I still wasn't finished with "The Girls." Next had to be their 'unveiling.' They'd learned a little about themselves, and gone into the forest to dance, 'hiding in plain sight.' Then they learned a lot more about themselves and their beauty, so it must be time to throw off any sort of self-consciousness and REALLY dance, right? YUP! "Spring Dancers II" was created. And instead of the darker green that surrounded each of the girls, clear and very light green glass surrounded each figure, and believe me, they stand out in all their glory!
So, what was next, after every one of the pieces sold except one (which I always wanted for my own)? Well, I got to speak at a weekend retreat of some lovely women and tell them the story of "The Girls" - and how when we work to empower ourselves, we are also empowering the other women around us, and how when working to empower others, a really beautiful side effect is that we end up empowering ourselves.
So, I hope you've enjoyed this little stroll with me down Memory Lane and learned a little bit about how some of my work comes together. Believe me, it's not all this complicated or drawn-out! But it makes me so very happy that I was the one who got to create them!