Saturday, April 11, 2020

My Art and Pandemic Musings

Past-Future, mixed medium, Kristen Applebee, 2012

During this month of shelter-in-place, I have had time to reflect on some key principles of living a meaningful life, including mindful awareness, gratitude, and being able to differentiate between needs and wants.

Being present isn't just a useful strategy for times of worry, such as this pandemic. It is just a way to appreciate life, throughout your life--while you are living it! There are some moments that stand out to me as truly joyful moments in my life. There is nothing extra-ordinary about these moments, except that I was extra-aware. For example, when I was a 19-year-old college student, I ran into my cousin on campus, and we sat on the lawn in front of the library, collecting a few friends as they walked by. Once we were a group of five or six, my cousin  said (probably quoting a commercial), "This is what it's all about, guys, right here." At that moment, I felt the sunshine on my face and the soft grass under me. I felt the energy of eager young college students walking by; I felt loved and I felt truly happy in the moment. That's the only way it's possible to be happy: moment to moment. In my art piece, Past-Future (above) the past and future are represented by ephemeral spaces, the only place with any substance is the present.

My work sometimes contains, transfer drawings to represent the tiny particles of spirit or energy that linger in a room. I once walked into a meeting late that it had ended and the room was empty. I could feel a sense of anger still lingering in the air, like suspended dialogue bubbles. I looked at the arrangement of chairs and the story they told. I'm not a forensic scientist but I do like to think about the stories of objects, and how we leave little bits of ourselves: our scent and fingerprints behind on the places we occupy, the chairs where we've sat. For me, chairs are symbols of environments that influence the people whom they've held (we behave differently in a church pew than a stadium stand or a recliner). Chairs are also symbols of people as they mimic the human form: back, seat, legs, and arms. We exist in an environment that influences us, and we are part of an environment that influences others.
Now, Kristen Applebee, mixed medium 2012

Our environment/society shows it's influence on us by the level of consumerism and busy-ness in our individual lives. It was just a couple months ago when I could be caught saying, "I need to get to Lauren's game early," or "We need some more heavy whipping cream."  Being able to realize that there is a difference between needs and wants is very empowering. In truth, the world wouldn't end if I didn't make it to my daughter's soccer game that day, and my family would have survived without whipped cream on our dessert (or even dessert for that matter). By saying, "I want to get to the game early" it brings more pleasure to the act because it recognizes that it is born of choice. We often get what we want without even realizing what a blessing it is.

I would encourage us all to live in the present and enjoy the gifts of stillness and simplicity this quarantine has to offer, rather than try to rush to the future or get back to the pass. Let's notice the goodness that is part of whatever situation you are in right now and be grateful for the needs that are being met this moment.

1 comment:

  1. I love your interest in chairs. Thanks for sending your link and your art.