The picture is a fruit pizza I made last week, because I’ve had mandalas on the mind.
A few months ago, I was contracted to do a performance art gig at William Martin UMC in Bedford, TX: Paint in the two morning services and facilitate a women’s art retreat in the afternoon.
At first I was supposed to do a spontaneous during-the-sermon word art piece, but about a week before the event I was told they had changed their minds and I would be painting to Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is” (1984) while the choir sang. After wrestling with whether this could still be a spontaneous piece, I came the conclusion that the answer, in a three-minute nutshell, is “no.” I often say “performance art is about as spontaneous as a space shuttle mission” and it’s true.
But I am happy to oblige and I worked through about six different media/shapes/images before settling on a mandala. I even built an enormous lazy Susan (4-feet square) to accommodate it. Unfortunately, two days before the event, when I tried it out on the actual (re: expensive) enormous paper I had bought for the purpose, the result was mundane. It had no fizzle. I am a lot of things, but mundane is not one of them.
Therefore I sought a new idea, with the sigh-filled realization that there would need to be a picture OF something. And not only that, but it would have to have a reveal of some kind, a surprise or some other unexpected ending. I didn’t want to be all Jesus-y, but sometimes (like in a church service) it just seems appropriate.
I got to practice it once with the choir right before first service, which worked out fine. As I sat in the pew waiting for performance time during the service, I suddenly got an idea to make it better and the third image (the dove – which is technically the first image, but it wasn’t in my rehearsals) became a solid part of the whole. Good thing it was easy to fit that in there. Good works just seem to need threes.
Afterward, I was still engaged for the afternoon retreat, which I was facilitating with theatrical improv warm-ups, an improv bible game, and art meditation. I think it went well, but as an introvert, I can get exhausted by people fairly quickly and although I was ready for some meditation, the improv came first on my schedule. Instead of listening to my gut instinct (the same one that added the dove into the performance piece), I followed the schedule. When we finally got to the meditation, I noticed that I had lost two people. One of them was a confirmed introvert who had been looking forward to the quiet meditation time, but she had left by the time it started (she did not tell me why – it could be that she had another engagement). I have felt guilty about it ever since. Why didn’t I follow my gut, which I so affectionately refer to as the unicorn?
I’m not big into last minute changes, I admit. I am a planner and prefer to think ahead, even if what I am planning is to let things flow. When I follow the unicorn, it generally works out. I don’t always listen – but I usually realize my lapse and regret it pretty quickly. Then I ask myself WHY do I not listen every time? Why not make the last-minute change? What’s stopping me? Fear? Sheesh.
I’ve got another performance art gig coming up October 7th. I as of yet have no idea what I’ll be doing. That’s another thing: I don’t do the same performance piece twice (I mean, I do if it’s the same day/same location, but not if there’s time in between). It’s this “Been there, done that. What’s next?” kind of attitude that I hope keeps me fresh and exciting.
To paraphrase Barbara Nicolosi: Some people think artists are a little crazy, and they might be right. But as frustrating or messy as life with an artist can be, there is one thing it never is; life with an artist is never boring.