Found and Lost

 

“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way - things I had no words for”

                                  - Georgia O’Keeffe

 

I’m writing now from a remote place in New Mexico. It is my first time in this state and in the city of Truth or Consequences. As always in my life the story of why I’m here begins in childhood, in the never ending curiosity that led my life and in turn led me to start painting at the age of forty and fifteen years later to deliver art workshops worldwide.

 

I’m a quick and positive responder to almost any adventure, sometimes I pay a heavy price for that, but in retrospect I was touched, and touched many people around the globe, and experienced life fully with no fear of losing it all.

 

This is the reason that I said ‘yes’ to participating in an artist residency in Truth or Consequences New Mexico.  The name intrigued me, who would call a city by this bizarre name? I checked it out, funnily enough the city was named after a popular T.V. show by that name in the late fifties.

 

I have here three weeks of total detachment from civilization, no one knows my new cell number, I don't answer emails and I have my own kitchen and studio so everything is possible.

 

I arrived three days ago, prepared everything, opened the color tubes, unwrapped the canvases I preordered, set all my tools on the table I got in the studio and waited. I’m still waiting. If it will come then good, if not the canvas remains white and it’s ok. Creative work cannot be pushed. I learned that those ‘waiting’ periods are crucial in my art life.

 

I was asked by a journalist in Kathmandu who was preparing an article about my art life, what is the creative process I’m going through, and I answered: There are days I wake up early in the morning, I see clearly the color and shape, the whole painting is there in front of me. I jump out of bed and after short morning rituals I’m off to my studio. I start painting with the image I have in mind, I can work all day and night and in the end the painting is there, this would be another painting I have created.

 

There is a second possibility, that I arrive at my studio and I have nothing in mind, I have no idea what will be the subject or even the technique I’ll use. I sit quietly in my ‘what next’ chair and wait - for an idea, for an image, for a memory that would evoke an image to hold on to. When nothing comes I meditate and if even this doesn’t help I go home, the canvas remains white. There are those moments that something does happen, that there is an opening in the stormy clouds and a beam of light reveals itself, marking a faint image or memory or colored structure that appears from nowhere and disappears to nowhere. If I rise from my ‘what next’ chair and create out of this state of mind it is usually a better painting.

 

But there is a third state of mind in my creative process, I call it ‘found and lost’. There are times when I come to my studio and I feel completely lost, full of doubts, not only that I have no idea what I’m going to do next, but I wonder if this is the right place for me. There are many things I can do outside the studio, there are many people I would love to meet, there are my children and I have guilt feelings about the scarcity of our time together. Am I doing the right thing? For so many years I have spent so much time in this studio, writing about my art, exhibiting all over the world, teaching art, curating shows. What for? Is it worth it? Am I doing what I’m supposed to do as a human being? Am I getting closer to my true self? Being in my studio alone facing those questions can be very painful. I bear the consequences of my art life decisions. My divorce, being away from my family, saying no to beneficial economic offers, living a nomadic life without a real home, are all the prices I pay and dwell upon in this third state of mind in my studio. Most of the time I return home gloomier and leave a white canvas behind. But there are rare moments when I see something, in those very rare moments of revelation, of clear, sheer vision; I forget all my doubts and paint out of emptiness. If a painting is done from this state of mind it's usually a painting I'll consider one of my favorites.

 

Georgia O’Keeffe is a role model for me, living her art life fully, creating nonstop till her death, running from civilization to New Mexico where she created for 57 years from 1929 till her death in 1986. Most of her time she spent in the Ghost range near Abiquiu, an hour north of Santa Fe and about a four hour drive from the place I’m in right now.

 

There is no life, no action, no truth without consequences, everything has its price.

 

I made my decision in life to express myself as fully as I can and to offer as many people the opportunity to fully express themselves. Is it worth it?

 

I don t have a final answer. It’s hard to judge a process in the midst of the journey but what I can say for sure is that I experienced some magical moments where an idea turns into a vision, translates into color and a form appears on the canvas and touches other human being's lives. In my teachings I experienced moments of transformation, of new insights, I know that I touched other people's lives and it is an endless joy to see them develop and flourish.

 

So my answer is YES, I will continue in this path because it brings me closer to my true self and enables me to influence and inspire other lives. I am here to share my life and thoughts with all human beings that are open to share the same and as Georgia O’Keeffe said my art journey starts with things I had no words for.

 

Have magic in your life

Ted Barr

Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

 July 2016