Not much in life goes as planned. It is a lesson hard learned but priceless. As I began the second half of my artist residency at the Vermont Studio Center recently, this lesson played out front and center. Artwork that had been planned for months shifted, leaving me feeling disappointed and uncertain, in a place of the unknown, rather than the structured world within my comfort zone. But this is where real growth happens, whether we like it or not. It happens when we take risks, let go of preconceptions, and learn to embrace the world we cannot control. Even though I had spent hours mixing delicious colors of ink for my next print in the studio, those prints were never in fact realized. I spent the week using only one of those colors on a completely unexpected set of prints.
The prints that resulted from this shift are abstractions of the natural world. Last November, I walked with my family through the Natural Bridges State Park in Clarksburg, Massachusetts. While standing there echoing our voices into the natural amphitheater of rock, I was struck by the sublime beauty of the withering milkweed pods and their feathering seeds that took flight in front of us. Not only is the milkweed pod a beautiful form, but it speaks to the cycles of nature – in this case, the pod breaking open to release the seeds that will be carried by the wind to find new life elsewhere. Wind is the vehicle of this exchange – the invisible yet powerful element of nature that assures the dying milkweed that its life will not be in vain, that when one door closes, another opens, and that while we may lament the past, there is always a future. My daughter and I gathered the dried milkweed pods that day and kept them in a glass vase in our dining room – a winter still life reminding us that spring was around the corner.