Over the past couple of months, I have found my work moving more and more small in its size. It wasn’t a conscious thing. It wasn’t because I wanted to simply make smaller paintings. I have simply found myself feeling smaller. Less expansive. Less confident in making bolder, larger statements. Hoping to move away from this trend, I went back in the blog archives and came across the post below from almost eight years back that captured my mood when I was in a somewhat similar place. I thought sharing it might remind me to begin thinking bigger again, to trust my vision.
Progress has not followed a straight ascending line, but a spiral
with rhythms of progress and retrogression, of evolution and dissolution.
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
I was looking at a book catalog yesterday, just browsing for something new and I spotted a book on the works of Robert Smithson, who is best known for his monumental earthworks. The most famous is shown here, the Spiral Jetty, which juts out into the Great Salt Lake in Utah. I’ve always been somewhat fascinated by earth-moving on a large scale and have admired Smithson’s work whenever I came across it.
The reason I mention this now is that I found myself thinking smaller lately, painting smaller paintings for a smaller economy. Part of this was a conscious decision but part was the result of just becoming a little more wary with all the turmoil in the world. There has been a period of introversion marked by a noticeable withdrawal from thinking boldly. Seeing this reminded me of the need to think big.
I realized I had become a bit fearful of pushing myself, perhaps afraid of exposing my limitations. I had lost a little faith in my own abilities, including the ability to adapt to new challenges.
I was being safe. It was the retrogression that Goethe talks of in the quote above. I was in the spiral.
This all flashed in my head within a few seconds of seeing the spiral jetty. Funny how a single image can trigger a stream of thought with so many branches off of it.
I had forgotten that I had to trust myself and throw the fear of failure aside, that thinking bold almost always summons up the best in many people. Once you say that you don’t give a damn what anyone says, that if you fail so be it, the road opens up before you and your mind finds a way to get you on it.
So I have to remember to think big.
To look past the horizon. Just freaking do it.
Then progress will come…