Monday, September 8, 2008

in Jordan...inputting and outputting

So I'm finally settled in my new home in Amman, Jordan. Well, actually I was settled a while ago, I've just been too busy enjoying the new, or "inputting" as I call it, to sit down and update this blog.
(photo to the Left: detail of door at Duke Bisharat's Diwan, downtown Amman)

Ahhh traveling to and/or moving someplace new is one of my favorite things. The amount of new information, new sights, stimuli for the senses is delicious, and addicting. Since arriving here in early July I have been moving about, meeting people, sampling the food, learning about the culture, trying to learn some Arabic (I'm ashamed to say I've been a poor student), socializing, visiting places with Ben, and taking lots and lots of photos. I've met wonderful people, found and gotten involved in the art scene here, and really feel at home. Jordan is comfortable and very friendly. Amman is a small city but there is so much to see, especially for a newcomer, that I find every task interesting. That doesn't mean I haven't gotten frustrated with certain aspects of this culture yet...but overall, I'm enjoying all the nuances. (photo to the Right: me at Duke Bisharat's property Um Al-Kundom, by artist Tariq Dajani)

As an artist especially, the "input" is particularly important. Input, as I define it, is basically like opening your mind, eyes, ears, nose, mouth and heart to receiving new information. Looking and noticing everything possible...the smells in the street, the dryness of the air, the patterns on a woman's overcoat and hijab, the sweat on a streetvendors upper lip, the eyes of a street cat, the brightly colored cars from decades past, the unfamiliar sounds of Arabic, the beauty behind the grime, the singsong of the gas truck... Anyone can identify with this, if you have experienced something new or traveled to a new place. It doesn't have to be exotic or far away. (photo to the Left: A cave in Little Petra, Jordan)

This experience is something I believe is an important practice, for everyone. Every so often, placing yourself in a new environment to expose yourself to new perspectives and new stimulation. This is how we learn. This is how we compare by juxtaposing what we know to what we have just discovered. This is how we confirm or re-evaluate our beliefs, opinions and views on the world. Even if one doesn't discover anything profound, it just gives you another take on life, and reminds us how small we are, and how much there is to see.

Absorbing and digesting all the input is another story. This takes time. I'm trying to be disciplined about limiting my thirst for input and start my processing. I need to work! My solo show at Zara Gallery is literally only 5 weeks away (not counting the nearly 2 weeks I will be out of the country visiting NYC in September). November 10 is the opening but I have set a deadline (which I know I won't meet) to have my work finished and framed by mid-end of October.
(photo to the Right: courtyard of my studio, Jabbal Webdeih, Amman)

I have painted every day for the past 2 weeks, and I am finally finding a "groove". My studio is finally set up. It's a charming small apartment located next to our apartment in Jabbal Webdeih. Our neighborhood is quiet, tree lined and very residential. It's also the neighborhood apparently, for creatives. Writers, Artists and Academics like to reside here. My studio is very small but has a lovely courtyard in the back with high walls which I can hang my art on. The lovely thing about the Jordan climate is that it's guaranteed to be dry and sunny every day (until late fall I believe) so I have been working (and leaving my work) outside! Yesterday I got so sick of the music on my iPod, I turned it off and decided to work to the smells of Iftar (breaking of Ramadan fast...lamb, chicken...mmm!), sounds of children playing, and the chirping of birds in the tall pine tree which shades my courtyard. There is something to be said about immersing yourself in your environment and connecting to it. This means accepting the fact that bugs get stuck on my paintings and pine needles fall onto my head and into my paint while I'm working. And that when it gets dark, I go home. I have had to get more disciplined about going to my studio early and working straight through. Being an input addict, anything can get me distracted and caught up in a daydream....(photo to the Left: working on a painting in my studio courtyard)

Back to what I was saying about processing the input to start the "output". I have taken lots of photos since I got here and have much inspiration. What to do with that inspiration is sometimes overwhelming. I have made many sketches using oil pastels in my I have a lot of material. I have ordered 20 boards to be built for me to paint on. I have all my materials and tools to work. So what stops me? Sometimes it's overwhelming to think of all the ideas you have and then decide where to start...I guess that is a good problem to have. Daydreaming is also a curse when you want to process and start outputting. I admire my artist friends who work diligently every day and it shows - they are prolific in their output! I have to remind myself though that for me the key is not quantity, it is quality. I have changed my process a bit. I no longer "have to" finish a painting in one sitting. That I have deemed is unrealistic. Instead, I have been taking my time and absorbing what I do and see on the painting surface. I evaluate, I think. And then finally I say, "HALAS!", it's finished.
(photo to the Right: detail of a painting I am working on)

So far though I think I'm doing ok. I have 3 pieces completely finished. I have 6+ pieces started and about 1/3 done. Pressure I guess is sometimes a good thing for gets us going! More to come...

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