Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Imperfect Iceberg

I can normally go for days, even weeks, without paying any attention to the news, but all too often lately a disaster which touches my world turns me into a news junkie. Today I am teary and shakey with fear and grief as I listen compulsively to the stories of survival and loss coming from Christchurch. I can't concentrate on anything, I keep jumping from one activity to another, all the time with my attention turned to radio and internet news.

A tragedy on this scale puts one's personal neurotic little dramas in perspective. At least today I have a day off from work to indulge my news addiction, and work has been the source of my neurotic drama recently. I've been on a full time training course every day; instead of my usual part-time evening routine which allows me plenty of time to manage my art work while staying relaxed, healthy and rested most of the time.

Full time intensive learning quickly exhausted me and I didn't have the resiliance to get through it without becoming very unhappy. I did manage to survive without getting physically ill, but only by withdrawing from almost all non-work activities including some that had been planned (and eagerly anticipated) months in advance. And that only made me feel worse. Yesterday was our final day of the training, and we spent the afternoon completely distracted by the earthquake news as it broke, increasingly more devastatingly.

The one saving grace of the past two weeks was my stitching. I managed to do a little bit of my big iceberg most evenings while watching junk tv shows so that its about half finished now. Stitching helped me relax, restored a little self esteem and positivity, but last night I couldn't manage more than a few stitches on the iceberg, because my hands were shaking as I flicked between Facebook, Twitter, the news video streaming websites.

Aside from the awful news from Christchurch city, the earthquake also managed to have a beautiful iceberg connection. The incredible blue of this newly exposed ice from Tasman Glacier is caused by its formation over hundreds of years as layers of snow are compressed and more and more oxygen is squeezed out of the ice (the blue faded to white within an hour or so of being exposed to the air). These layers of ancient ice hold the history of the earth's atmosphere with minute particles of volcanic ash, pollen and other traces that settled on the snows surface between one fall and the next.

Like a real iceberg, my stitched sculpture tells a story in its layers, tracing my emotional state of the last couple of months. The first few week's stitching is very even and tidy across the deepest teal shades of the graduated colours. I was stitching through a relaxed happy summer with plenty of rest and fun between each layer. This part of the iceberg showed the culmulative improvement in my skills in this technique since I started making layered blanket sculptures.

In contrast, the lighter aqua layers that I stitched in recent evenings and weekends around my full time training are relatively sloppy, uneven and careless. They show the traces of exhaustion, irritibility, anxiety, sorrow and shame. In the middle of all this I decided to restitch part of my early 'good' work because the colour change was too abrupt, so now there's a few layers of crude stitching through the centre of my earlier tidy happy work.

Fortunately, at about the same moment that I stepped back from the iceberg enough to notice the contrast between the stitching of my different emotional states, I was reaquainting myself with Brene Brown who's work on authenticity has been a great solace to me lately. So instead of getting even more upset and ripping out many hours of work, I decided to leave it in place to show the environmental reality of its creation.

Of course, I realise that the difference between my 'good' stitching and my 'sloppy' stitching isn't very noticable to anyone except another stitcher, or super critical viewer. After all my 'good' stitching isn't as perfect as I would like. You may not think it matters, but I always notice, and the uneven stitching will be what I see first and foremost whenever I look at this iceberg.

But when so many lives are devastated, not only in Christchurch, but in Libya, in Queensland, in so many parts of the world, it seems to me that to elide imperfection is to disrespect their suffering.


Joan said...

Your art is life.. life is art.. a wonderful post of emotion and pain and understanding Meliors..

Carol said...

Your iceberg is beautiful, Meliors, with perhaps the natural flaws that an iceberg would have just from existing.

This is a very difficult time for everyone who has watched those terrifying scenes of the past day and a half. I've had my TV on from the first moment and I just can't bring myself to turn it off. So much sadness, so much suffering, and my heart goes out to you and all New Zealanders, but especially to those in Christchurch.

Bob McKerrow said...

You write from the heart and it is so real reading your posting. Yes people, buildings, landscape have been devastated, but also books have been ruined.

This is a note from a friend.

Friday...spent morning at friend's antique polar/mountain book store...mud
volcano/bad smelling water came up through floor so many many lovely books destroyed with water soaking..very depressing & tiring just getting book cases off crazy angles. Whole shop will have to be evacuated due to water

Dana said...

This is so wonderful.