Quality Time and Space

basement

Early Morning Sanctuary

. . . the loss of common sense is neither the vice nor the virtue of Kant’s “professional thinkers”; it happens to everybody who ever reflects on something; it only happens more often to professional thinkers. These we call philosophers, and their way of life will always be “the life of a stranger” (bios senikos), As Aristotle called it in his PoliticsAnd the reason that strangeness and absent-mindedness are not more dangerous, that all “thinkers,” professionals and laymen alike, survive so easily the loss of the feeling of realness, is just that the thinking ego asserts itself only temporarily: every thinker no matter how eminent remains “a man like you and me” (Plato), an appearance among appearances equipped with common sense and knowing enough common-sense reasoning to survive.

Hannah Arendt, The Life of the Mind

The last time I knew this level of serenity and heartfelt satisfaction was when I awoke mornings on the island at the Laguna Madre during my stays in 2015 and 2016. As artist-in-residence for Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi, I was given two six-day stays alone at their field station on the spoil island. The quiet that enveloped me throughout each day as I divided my time between painting, reading and writing was much like what I know in the basement of the Redlands Hotel in Palestine, Texas. During these quiet mornings, punctuated by the hourly tolling bells of Sacred Heart Catholic Church above me, and directly across the street, I feel my soul slowly waking after a good night’s sleep, and reading Hannah Arendt over a cup of coffee is deeply satisfying. Time to read, reflect and write at this study table has been luxurious, and I feel a genuine surge of energy rising to meet the tasks of the day. Later in the morning, I’ll walk across the studio to the drafting table and contemplate the next steps on this new watercolor. Then, around 10 o’clock, I plan to open the gallery upstairs.

draft

I cannot say enough about the value of space and quiet for serious thinking. Throughout my years of full-time teaching, it was a struggle to escape the rat race of daily routines, so much valuable time was wasted on tasks required by the job, yet so useless and devoid of quality when it came to the main task of educating young minds. How refreshing now to meet classes only twice a week and have an abundance of quality time to research and write new presentations. Last week I had the privilege of presenting Impressionist art in a way I never could before, because there was so much more time to focus on the subject and develop new angles of approach. As Hannah Arendt wrote above, we don’t expect to spend entire days contemplating our navels; we just wish for some space to pull back from the agenda and think seriously over things that matter.

Likewise with my painting–at this point in my life I’m enraptured at the increased opportunities to study theory and art history. In addition, I have more time to spend with other artists in dialogue, and hence gain new insights into this enterprise of making art that matters. Without time set aside for serious consideration about the kind of art I’m trying to make, I could easily find my brush drifting into automatic pilot and merely cranking out a product that has been swept clean of inspiration.  I have always wanted my paintings to matter, to myself as well as to the viewers.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

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