"Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark. 
In effect, the people who change our lives the most begin to 
sing to us while we are still in darkness. If we listen to 
their song, we will see the dawning of a new part of ourselves."

Rabindranth Tagore

Existential Intelligence is the sensitivity and capacity to engage questions about human existence – how we got here, whether we have a purpose, and whether there is meaning in Life. Existential intelligence embraces the exploration of aesthetics, philosophy, religion and values like beauty, truth, and goodness. A strong existential intelligence allows human beings to see their place in the big picture, be it in the classroom, community, world, or universe.

First proposed by Howard Gardner, existential intelligence is one of nine theorized intelligences and is considered to be amoral – that is, it and the other eight categories of human intelligence can be used either constructively or destructively.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Getting Started Again

I am working on a new series; to be exhibited in January 2011 at the University of Louisville. My original plan was to mount the digitally produced Sacred Planet series, but surprisingly enough, when that series was completed (a year ago) I found myself longing for a return to the primitive hands-on practices upon which I have built not only a career, but most of my strongest efforts.

I am talking about simple processes. Dyeing fabric, and then adding layers of printing, which if I am lucky, will alchemically combine to produce what I can only describe as a visually poetic surface. No small feat. The traps are poor technique (the processes are deceptively simple) and/or trite or tired content, or both. I don’t have the luxury of being a newbie anymore. I can’t revel in the glow of a serendipitously printed dye surface, or the fun of printing with bubble wrap. Every beginning artist is entitled to the fresh excitement of those experiences, but sooner or later, as much as you hate it, you’ve got to ramp it up. I’ve discovered that the discipline leading to success is just as much fun as beginner’s fun, but it took me years to figure it out.

So discipline, what’s that about? I’ve written at length about discipline before. The writing done to prepare for the new series focused on three threads, which I share with you as a sort of November-December challenge.

What, I thought, would happen if I did what I always preach to students, and limited the variables that are an intrinsic part of creative making? And so I have.

Silk, cotton and polyester overlays (driven by choice of process) with the addition of hand made papers.

Flour paste resist - because I love the texture generated by the paste, and it’s a good way to add contrast to cloth. Mostly abstracted design elements based on my twenty-year accumulation of symbolic images. (That’s my own unique visual language.) Devore (burnout) because I like how it looks, there is a symbolic side to the process, and Thank God we are out of the devore everywhere phase of surface design, so I can return to it without being in the middle of the pack. Screen printing, with some pigment and some sand – because it’s something new I’ve figured out and I like it. Paper lamination – because contrasting texture is good. That ought to be enough of a variety to give me some breathing space when I am fearful of being bored or trite.

Screens - some of which are very old. They represent my personal development and also a certain sort of collective unconscious. But looser marks too – the mark of the flour paste, and the hand drawn mark. And the patterns on the paper used for lamination.

The working title is Etudes: A Daily Practice. A musician practices etudes, the French word for study, in order to learn the repertoire and improve or refine playing. This body of work is my study. It is research into what happens when an artist’s methodology and content move forward within the parameters of limitation.

I look forward to sharing the unfolding with you. If anyone else thinks this sounds interesting, be challenged to set the same course! It would be thought-provoking to compare notes now and then. I’m hazarding a guess that a lot of what I’ll learn is going to manifest at the end of the process, after the pieces are mounted for exhibition…and not while I’m in the middle of the making.

It’s just one more leap of faith.


  1. Jane -- I'll take you up on the challenge. I've been diddling around too long and like the idea of complexity in simplicity and setting parameters. My favorite technique -- painting -- I learned from you in Houston eons ago.

  2. Thanks for joining in! We'll see where this leads.

  3. Jane, I like the way you've approached defining the series. I'm a member of LAFTA and will be in one of the workshops you'll teach while here. I'm going to think this through for more clarity, but I'm leaning toward joining you.