Conspicuous Consumption

colorful floral watercolor paintings on a wall
Small studies and sketches.

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open.”

Martha Graham
small detail from Isa collage handy man
Detail from my collage Handyman.

This year I want to create more, and consume less. I am a somewhat reformed magpie in terms of material stuff, but I want to address other kinds of consumption — my constant nose diving into the national news for instance. It’s an addiction that is chomping into my creative life as I scramble to look at the news each morning.  My husband is a writer, and pulled me out of this self sabotage by sharing a snippet from a recent interview.

Daniel is writing a history of Anderson Ranch Arts Center to honor its 50 birthday last year. ARAC is an international cultural icon and has been a keystone of my artistic development — I have been both a student and a teacher there. He has interviewed dozens of fascinating artists who flowed through the place, one of whom is Tom Sachs. Daniel shared a work habit of Sachs’s with me, one which the artist often cites, but bears constant reinforcement: ”First thing in the morning, before checking your email, or reading the New York Times, or Instagram,  immediately write in your journal, your dreams or your thoughts, or touch clay — do something that goes out of your body. The phone calls and emails will come into your day — you cannot avoid them no matter how hard you try, but you can control your waking moment. You can wake up five minutes earlier and write down your thoughts no matter what.” Sachs often forms a daily vessel out of clay and even travels with a kiln.

I used to follow a similar practice to Sachs’s before kids, dogs and news and social media got in the way, or I let them get in the way. I love that my husband is trying to realign me, since I cannot afford my current attention deficit. No one can — we need to create more than ever.

journal sketches
Journal sketches and writing in the studio.

“Everyone has to sleep, everyone dies, steal five minutes to channel your subconscious and imagination — it benefits everyone.”

Got it.

11 responses to “Conspicuous Consumption”

  1. Jody Guralnick Avatar
    Jody Guralnick

    Beautifully said Isa and great advice from Tom Sachs. I’m going to be literal, get a hunk of clay, and get on with it . And STOP with the morning news – I was never an addict before but this cheeto colored president has taken over my mornings – and the rest of the day. You’re so right that this hinders creativity. A drawing a day from now on

    1. Avatar

      Thanks Jody! It is like rubber necking for that car wreck!

  2. Avatar

    Hard indeed to resist rubber-necking for that nation wreck. But enough. I’ve had it. Time to reclaim our creative lives. To stay aware and active but not sacrificial. Otherwise, we all lose. Great reminder. Thank you!

  3. Avatar

    Thank you Julie! Here is to stiffer necks and tunnel vision!

  4. kathy Le Mieux-Rodman Avatar
    kathy Le Mieux-Rodman

    You and my daughter keep inspiring me to write……I am back at it this am thx to the two of you.

    We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. Thornton Wilder

    love to you isa

    1. Avatar

      Thank you Kathy, so glad to hear that!

  5. Helen Schulman Avatar
    Helen Schulman

    Such an amazing coincidence: I give that Martha Graham quote to all my classes on the first day. A friend of mine was in a revival of Carousel and they handed it out to the cast (this was in the mid 90s) and he gave it to me and I have given it to all my students ever since. Graham wrote it to Agnes DeMille who choreographed Carousel as a high art pep talk:). I absolutely love it.. And I love this blog post.

    1. Avatar

      Yes, it is a wonderful, timeless quote! So glad you enjoyed…thank you for reading!

    2. Avatar

      So flattered that you read this Helen! We just got back from vacation and I have an email from Bruce about his book! Bravo. Not sure how I’m going to get to NY but am trying. Hope you are very, very well. And I kept that quote all these years from her obit. It’s just a wow.

  6. Avatar

    Yes. To open to the flow of creation, to and through us, daily, ritualistically, makes life better. Thanks Isa for the inspiration. I, too, had unwittingly eddied out, and am now willing myself back in. xo

    1. Avatar

      Peg, thanks for reading and so happy to hear that!

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