December 13, 2015

How Art Happens

Last week, during my weekly coffee date with my friend Albert, serendipity revealed the subject for my next portrait in thread. Being open to and influenced by chance in my art practice is revolutionary for me. In the past, within the grips of a distinct project, with a an overall concept to explore and agenda to convey, I've worked steadily and deliberately. So deliberate, sure-footed, and clear was my art making process that I had no patience for artists who said they didn't know where their ideas came from or could not describe their processes. 

During my college days, I was utterly disappointed by one of my favorite artists when I went to see her give an artist's talk. Kiki Smith*, a champion of women and our collective experiences, said then, and continues to say, that she has no idea what she's doing. At the time I first heard this, I thought she was cannily protecting her method from the nosy public or that she was too lazy or loosey-goosey to put it into words. But now I'm coming to understand this way of working. As Smith describes it in her segment on the PBS series Art21, "Basically, I think art is just a way to think, it’s like standing in the wind and letting it pull you in whatever direction it wants to go."

I am a little surprised that this notion appeals to me; going with the flow and seeing where it leads and what work results from it rather than pushing the work in a rigid trajectory. Given that I am actively reading about goddesses within the Hindu pantheon, and am deeply involved with an online discussion about the book, I was certain that once Sheela was finished, I would move on to one of goddesses described in Awakening Shakti.
This reproduction of the c. 1140 Sheela-na-gig corbel on Kilpeck Church
in Herefordshire, England, hangs over the entrance to my studio
Instead, this is what happened. Because Albert and I live 300 miles apart, our coffee talk occurs on the phone. In the space of time it takes to drink a cup or two of coffee while blabbing away, our conversation ranges all over the place, with a healthy dose of silly, goofy irreverence in the mix. Last week, I can't remember the context, Albert said something about Isis. He meant the terrorist organization and I half-jokingly cautioned him not to mention that word on the phone. One of us repeated "Isis" and I heard a distinct kerklunk-click on the line.

Deep into the silly portion of our conversation at this moment, I said something like, "To anyone who is now listening, we are talking about Isis, the Egyptian goddess." At which point we speculated whether or not Isis was Egyptian. Perhaps Sumerian? I went to the shelf for my dictionary and read out, "Isis. An ancient Egyptian goddess of fertility and sister and wife of Osiris."

(I just typed sister and wife to Osiris. But no, my 1969 dictionary uses the preposition of. Well pardon me. The dictionary considers Isis a subject of Osiris rather than a partner to him. Interesting.)

After reading aloud that definition of Isis, I knew she was going to be my next piece of stitchery. And having said as much on the phone to Albert, a second, distinct kerklunk-click was heard on the line. Regardless of possible government monitoring or a rodent chewing on the phone lines with coincidental timing, I'm allowing myself to be swept along by the serendipitous flow. And it feels right, being open and playful with my making while remaining focused on the central concept. Even though the core concept has yet to coalesce into words, it is a strong, instinctual feeling. This is a good place to be.
First attempt at rendering Sheela in cross stitch © Laurie Lundin 2015
*This 2006 NPR piece on Kiki Smith provides a a nice synopsis of her body of work.


  1. I've had this post of yours open for the past few days. It has been waiting patiently amid the many desktop pages I've got going at the moment, just quietly waiting for my busy-ness to settle down. I am so happy to have finally read it just now and I think it is wonderful, Laurie. I love that you are opening up to the flow of creativity and allowing for the unknown possibilities. I bet your creations shift to a whole new level of beauty as a result. Sheela is incredible and I totally can't wait to see what becomes of Isis. Who knows what was causing the "tapped" line but the Universe's message came through loud and clear. Yay! :-) xo

    1. Thank you, dear friend. I appreciate your support and encouragement as I tread into uncharted (for me) waters. In reading over this post, what stands out is that I have previously ALWAYS had an agenda for my art projects. Now I'm just going with the flow and it is like fireworks are bursting in my soul. This is wild. And it has much to do with your incredible energy. I wasn't kidding when I said your powerful positivity ( was spreading worldwide. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Xan. You are an inspiration.

    2. OH MY GOSH!!! Laurie your amazing! You have brought tears of gratitude to my eyes. Far out I love the Internet and how technology has allowed us to connect. Sending you so much LOVE xoxoxo