May 18, 2017

A Case for Tangents

I was not planning to write more about tangents. I had no plan whatsoever for what what would spill forth here today. But going on a tangent about tangents? Isn't that too close for comfort to flogging a dead horse? (Eeh gads. What a horribly nasty expression.) Except I turned on the computer, as one does when one writes blog posts. Before getting to said post writing, however, I went down the rabbit hole. And discovered a really cool thing that I want everyone to know about. I'm just as interested in my discovery as I am in the path that led to the discovery. As well as the background "noise" that's been playing at low volume that influenced my choices that created the path that led to the discovery. Blabbedygook? Allow me to illustrate what I mean.

In the background, some of my background "noise," are thoughts about unfinished projects. Our apartment is full of reprimands everywhere I turn; from stacks of paper to be sorted, clothes to be donated, and areas to tidy to untouched clothing patterns and fabric, possible materials for future yonis, and that empty bell jar. Added to the physical reminders of unfinished work are two recent blog posts by Ann Wood and The Craft Sessions, both about strategies to complete languishing pieces. I believe I am now using thinking about procrastination as a procrastination technique itself. But, as I said, this is all playing in the background.

So, on comes the computer. I check in with the blogs I follow. I log onto facebook to see if there's been any activity in the group for the Squam workshop Magic of Myth II: End of Quest. There isn't anything new, but I mention this because it, too, becomes background "noise."

With the Magic of Myth workshop fresh in my mind, I click on a post from Philadelphia Museum of Art. The post advertises a current gallery exhibit, Philadelphia Illustrators, with the following image. Because the illustration looks related to myth and fairy tales (Magic of Myth connection) I choose to click on it to see if the rest of the exhibit follows suit. If it does, I will likely trek on down to Center City to view the show.
Howard Pyle
Sir Pellias Encounters the Sorrowful Lady in Arroy, 1903
Illustration for the book "The Story of King Arthur and His Knights"

Pen and black ink over graphite on paper
Image credit: Philadelphia Museum of Art
I click the link in the post and land on the page of current gallery exhibits at the museum. Scrolling down to Philadelphia Illustrators, I click the link to view the slideshow of the exhibit. I quickly advance through the slideshow until I am arrested by the following painting by Blanche Dillaye. Arrested because 1) it's by a woman, 2) it's a blue landscape which directly correlates to one of the books I am currently reading (A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit - more background "noise" and recommended reading for Magic of Myth), and 3) because of the accompanying text blurb.
Blanche Dillaye
c. 1926
Watercolor over charcoal on paper
Image credit: Philadelphia Museum of Art
In the slideshow of the exhibit, this piece by Dillaye is accompanied by the following text:
Blanche Dillaye was one of the first women to receive national recognition for her etchings. She became director of education at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and helped found the Philadelphia Water Color Club and the Plastic Club, a group for women artists. The term “plastic” referred to the state of any unfinished work of art. In her own work, Dillaye was fond of poetic and dramatic night scenes like this one.
By now you can guess what jumped out at me. The Plastic Club, a club for women artists, and the fact that the name refers to UNFINISHED WORKS OF ART!!!!! See? It all comes full circle. The end is the beginning. All ideas stem from one sturdy trunk. Anyway, a quick google search proves The Plastic Club is alive and well in Philadelphia. Founded in 1897, "[t]he name "Plastic Club," suggested by Blanche Dillaye, referred to any work of art unfinished, or in a "plastic" state. The term also refers to the changing and tactile sense of painting and sculpture." Women making art name their club for unfinished work. This is the surprising, amazing vista reached through the tangents described.

That entire process of discovery, choosing which links to click thereby selecting a path, took all of two minutes. Unraveling it to describe in words took a couple of hours (with breaks for toast and more coffee). And that's precisely why I took the time to parse it out. Thoughts flit by in nano-seconds. But slowing down - piecing together how one thought led to this thing which led to yet another thought which led to that thing - seems to me to be a valuable creative tool. Taking the time to trace influences and tangents is proving to be an illuminating exercise of discovery, rediscovery, and fresh inspiration.

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