A Bigger Canvas

Posted by Deborah on January 11, 2012

Things are different here.  Since closing the door on my old studio in Tigard, Oregon on July 30th, 2011, I’ve spent a certain amount of time in the past six months reviewing my connection with that place and its influence on my work.  I admit to uncovering a certain fear that my life’s work was born in that place and was determined to reside there forever.  When we moved permanently and there was temporarily no studio to move to, no place to work, I suffered a simmering anxiety, not quite panic, that I would never work again.  I even considered this as an option, perhaps a positive one, where my life would open up to new horizons of learning and skill.  There is so much to do here that is wonderful.  The property, all four and a half acres of which is sorely in need of a caring hand and long-term vision, calls to me daily. I look from my bedroom window each morning, see the broken branches of fallen trees littering the lovely field above the house, the tangled overgrown shrubs, the views into the woods blocked by unnaturally verdant walls of ivy covered trees and I itch to get outside to deal with it once and for all. While making my morning coffee I gaze from the kitchen window down to where flowers once filled the field in the days when the Dickies sold “arrangements” from the dilapidated flower stand at the bottom of our driveway. I dream of clearing that field of the giant horsetail that now chokes the entire area and planting flowers, reinstituting the flower stand.  Carl and I joke about “Flowers, five dollars, holly, five dollars, videos, five dollars, paintings five dollars…”  There is the vegetable garden, or the beginning of one, to fence and then to plant, and then to harvest.  There are trees to fell for firewood to keep us warm.  There are trees to plant in their place. There are animals that live here, share our land and make their presence known daily, and mysteriously.  The Elk, the Deer, the Eagles and the Owls, the Chipmunks, Raccoons, Coyotes, Rabbits, Rats and Mice. There are many we don’t know yet.  There is the Bay and the Sky, both always present, always changing.  There is the Dawn and the Dusk, the Moon and the Rain.  We are not alone here. 

In the suburbs where I lived before, I was much more alone.  My world by choice consisted of a 90’ x 90’ lot with a cozy home and spacious studio, embraced by a secluded garden atop stone walls edged by vines and trees.  It was a small, richly dense place, self-contained, distanced from the surrounding neighborhood by tall fences and private sensibilities.  It was a place to work, to concentrate, to escape and ignore the stuff outside the fence.  It was an island life. 

Here we are at the edge of a continent.  Everything is big, limitless.  Everything grows fast and enormously. Everything is strong, from the winds and the rains to the trees and the tides.  One does not escape here.  One confronts everything here.  One cannot ignore the powers of Nature, or the fragility of life.  These things are outside my windows, under my feet as we uncover our land, and in the air that expands all the way to the Milky Way at night when we walk down to close the gate at the end of our gravel drive. 

I’m working again, in my new “temporary” studio.  I have paintings started.  It wasn’t true that I would never work again.  But things are different here.  It’s bigger here.  There is more to do, more to care about, more to learn and more to create, not just on wood or canvas, but in space and time. 

“We all look at Nature too much, and live with her too little.”  Oscar Wilde