1-27-18 • Musings on Mussel Ridge Cove

I’m still thinking a lot about visual stimuli. What I was referring in the earlier post is a mysterious process that for me can take place while I’m thinking about other things like stopping at the bank or picking up the dogs at the vet. It’s like a camera in my head that patiently records something I will need for later, but I’m not aware of it at the time.

For a number of months a year I work at the top of a hill in So. Thomaston on the mid-coast of Maine. It’s a celestial property if such a thing exists. A stone wall a few feet away from my back window separates the property from the lobsterman’s next door. Beyond the wall is an old wood. A family of chipmunks lives in the stone wall and in the summers when my windows are open, one or another of them will perch on the wall a few feet away and scold me for being there. Seems a fair complaint to me. The front of the building faces Mussel Ridge Cove, a dreamy expanse of water with tiny islands scattered across it. Each island boasts a stand of pine trees with the tallest trees in the center, so at a distance the islands appear to be triangular in shape.  Like most bodies of water, Mussel Ridge Cove has its moods. On a sunny day the water is a clear ultramarine blue that should be the Maine state color if it is not. It’s windy up there on the ridge, and in the summer the wind brings the smell of the sea, grass and pine trees through the front doors. It is not the easiest time to persuade myself I should be inside working and not out. You would think that being in this beautiful, magical place would encourage me to make the woods, grassy fields and water the subjects of my work. Many artists come to the area in the summer and fall to paint the beautiful natural world they see around them. What happens to me is different. Somehow, I’m recording all these visual and sensory impressions every minute I’m here, but what comes out in the work looks considerably altered. For one thing I work abstractly. I sometimes feel like a giant prism that refracts the light and turns it into something else. I have no doubt that my work is profoundly affected by what’s around me but what happens between the visual stimuli and how it is reflected in the work is a mystery to me. I once read that what happens in the brain of a visual artists during the creative process is a place “with no words.” You can talk about the work, make panel presentations during exhibitions, write articles about your process, come up with endless artist statements, but when it comes right down to it the actual place where the transformation takes place is inaccessible to you. When you’re there, though, you know it.

 Snow and a supply of hot tea makings. Perfect.

Snow and a supply of hot tea makings. Perfect.

 Time to head home from the studio.

Time to head home from the studio.