18 Aug

In a previous iteration of my artistic self, I was often referred to by friends and colleagues as Word Nazi.  I love words. I love everything about them – the sound, the geography, the meaning(s), the word parts, and parts of speech. I love knitting a cohesive word sequence into a sentence that conveys a precise meaning and then rearranging the same words for a different context. I even love diagramming sentences to examine how their words relate to each other. Weird! I know. 

I don’t suggest diagramming sentences as a fun group activity anymore. The last time I did that my colleagues practically booed me out of the room. 

Writing requires an action plan. Even though I no longer write for a living, I still want to know what I’m going to say before sitting down at the computer. But the language of abstract art is different. After 30 years of cultivating the writing craft, I’m now engaging a different – and often challenging – communication skill. 

If you’re wondering, yes. There most definitely is a language of abstract art. To communicate clearly, both the artist and viewer must see beyond the image that is dependent on words to explain it. 

If you look at a painting of an elephant, you will be forced beyond your control to attach the noun elephant to the piece. You can’t help it. It’s a reflex. But if you see a painting of a gray oval with the bottom edge wavy and attached to it a line with ridges along the curve, you may glean the same feeling that touches you deeply when watching a magnificent elephant. You just won’t have the words to describe it. This intuitive place is deeper and far more intimate than where the intellect uses the common practice of thinking in words. 

Indeed, my fundamental challenge in making abstract art is to avoid thinking about it at all during the creative process. As one so deeply rooted in the structure of language, I find the practice of applying globs of paint to a canvas without an action plan, well . . . unnerving. As a result, I am occasionally reluctant to go to my studio. I might not paint at all if I didn’t know what was in store for me on the other side of hesitation. 

Thankfully, I do know what can happen when I release all expectation, acknowledge my vulnerability, and pray the result will speak to someone’s heart. Taking only that attitude to the studio has consistently transported me to that sacred speechless place often expressed in tears of gratitude.

* The email will not be published on the website.