Vacation was good to me.
It always is.
I’m not just talking about rest and relaxation or getting away from the normal day to day. I’m talking about imagery and concept related to making art. When my brain is able to coast a little, space opens up and ideas fill that space.
G and I started taking weeklong trips to the beach annually back when I was in grad school. The summer before my final year in the MFA program we took our first one. I was frustrated with my sculptural work and had a loose idea of what I was going to make for my thesis exhibition. It was a decent idea for a body of work but I wasn’t excited about it. When we left for the beach I carried a load of books to read and my sketchbook. My love of people watching is well known so I was quite distracted from my work on the beach. In the early part of that week a group of newly graduated senior girls set up their tanning station just in front of us on the sand. After a while they rolled onto their bellies and unstrapped their tops for that seamless tan, paying no attention to the incoming tide. It was late May/early June. The air was warm and the water was still a bit chilly. We watched as each wave lapped closer and closer to the toes of the tanners. And then, as the ocean enjoys doing to us, it sent one rogue wave charging ahead chilling and waking our beach neighbors with a start. Such a start, in fact, that they forgot about their tops as they reflexively raised up and screamed. It was quite a show for everyone and there was a lot of laughter.
That moment had value. It was funny and it was a story and it seemed to say so much more than simply what happened. It immediately appeared to me to be an allegory, a moment that had the power to communicate something larger than itself. I drew it in my sketchbook and that quick sketch evolved over the next few days into a very abstract mermaid form. That form became a sculpture and that sculpture was part of my completely new idea for my thesis exhibition. These were sculptures that made me laugh. They were exciting. The show was titled “Souvenirs” because each sculpture came from an idea or story from that vacation.
A part of that simple form has remained with me all these years, always taking me back to that moment of receiving a story with a message. Over the past 15 years that image has morphed into a whale, then a bird, then a submarine and it has always reminded me of the need to look for beauty and meaning in those moments.
Vacation was good to me. Here’s a few photos…