“Art is the only way to run without leaving home.”
~ Twyla Tharp
My days are a series of carefully selected choices. If I select just the right activities, in just the right order, for just the right amount of time, I can live the day in a minimal amount of pain. I suffer from a rare form of arthritis called DISH syndrome, complicated by fibromyalgia. Since my early thirties pain has been a daily concern.
Today I am feeling both tired and infused with excitement, pumped up with the joy of accomplishment. But accomplishment takes energy, most of which I do not have. My brain works a mile a minute, my body only 1/10 the speed.
Inside I am wanting to burst out. Free myself of the constraints that are illness and anxiety. I want to walk on the wild side and do ‘crazy,’ uncontrolled things. How wonderful it would be to visit an exotic city, packed with people, sampling strangely curious street foods in back alleys and out of way places. I would hike a small mountain in Northern Europe, feel the silence in my shaking bones, experience the sensation of every breath as I take in an unimaginable view. Fear would not overtake me as I walk into the Costa Rican jungle, hacking away at overgrown palms in search of a secluded waterfall.
It is for this reason that I connect well with abstracts, edgy artwork bordering on the peculiar. When I am feeling hemmed in, constrained… it’s a way a reaching out for the exotic, taking a walk on the wild side, without leaving home. Abstract still life photography in particular fits the bill.
I had been searching the state for a potter with a particular aesthetic. Maine is full of talented artists, and many ceramic artists indeed. But I had yet to find the type of work I was looking for. There were several on Instagram that I loved, but alas, they were in the UK or Australia. Shipping costs were prohibitive. After looking for about a year, I happened upon an artist while searching the hashtag #maineart, she lived part time in Maine, only 20 minutes from my home! I noticed that most of her shows were in Japan, but it just so happened that Hanako Nakazato was advertising an open studio in the town of Union, just a few weeks away!
Upon arriving at her home and studio I approached a large table outside, filled with pottery shards. I once imagined a photo shoot that would include potters casts off, broken pieces that did not survive the kiln. Here they were, just exactly as I had imagined, laying curiously on the table. I inquired, wondering where they had come from, since they were very different from the work I now saw at her show.
Hanako explained, they were a gift from her mentor and friend Malcolm Wright. The shards were recovered by him, dug out of the ground in the town where she was from, Karatsu, Japan.
For many generations Japanese potters had been part of the Karatsu community, the shards were estimated to be 400 years old. Hanako kept some, but there were more than she had room for. They were there on the table to be shared with all who desired them. Hanako honored me with several pieces of my choosing. Before leaving I purchased two pieces her new work, now part of my favored prop collection.
This experience seemed so important. I always have felt a strong connection to Japanese art and aesthetic although I’ve never had the opportunity to visit. Here were pieces of history, now included in the box of tools I use to process emotion, this time the feeling of being broken, not completely useful, pain. How appropriate I thought, to include the dahlias I had purchased days before but did not have the energy to shoot, who were now a little past their prime.
We can easily appreciate beauty in items that are aged and worn, plants that are going by, broken articles infused with history. Why is it so difficult to see it in ourselves? I must learn to see myself in a similar way, beautiful because of my imperfection, not in spite of it?