Song for a Magnolia

Song for a Magnolia

‘Song for a Magnolia’ (48″x29″ Acrylic, Gouche and Archival Gold Ink on Salvaged Barn Wood) 2015

if it doesn’t come bursting out of you

in spite of everything,

don’t do it.

unless it comes unasked out of your

heart and your mind and your mouth

and your gut,

don’t do it.

-Charles Bukowski

Billy here. This week Spence and I collaborated on a piece we call Song for a Magnolia. It’s the first time either of us have worked on a painting with anyone else and we both found it really delightful.

Sometimes it feels awkward to share things. There’s usually a feeling of not being good enough. My inner critic always pipes up after making art or playing music for people, “Well, that was all right I suppose, but it sure wasn’t perfect!” Oh, the old childhood issues. It’s a pungent realization that I am stingy with what I love sometimes out of fear. I could play my digital piano plugged in to the amp sometimes, so that the people around me could hear the music I make instead of playing on the headphones all the time. But there’s that stinginess. And that’s all it is. It takes generosity and vulnerability to share what we love the most, to expose our heart. Vulnerability gets a bad reputation in our culture. It’s so much more hip to be cynical, hard, mysterious, knowledgeable, snarky…in short, invulnerable. But the ability to open is actually the most courageous thing we can do. Without it there would be no life. So here it is, the imperfect things I do and am.

Being a perfectionist, it’s so incredibly difficult to release things out into the world that aren’t perfect, which is everything! You want to suck everything back in and hold on tight. Spence is really helping me relax in that way. There is no such thing as perfection. Even the supposed perfection of musical pitch is a clever cultural fudge, as properties such as the Pythagorean comma show. Physics itself is more complex that we want it to be. Things don’t line up to the patterns we see. The practice, the process, the path – that’s all we have. Everything else is temporary. If I don’t keep playing, painting, sharing, and getting feedback from sharing, then I will never get better at all. Is the work toward perfection a waste of time? Maybe only if it makes us a closed and bitter person.

Well, I’ll never be perfect, thank the stars! So that means I have a lifetime of work to do and I’ll never be bored. Meanwhile, I’d really like to give my ears to the music that is the world around me with the kind of attention I would give to a symphony.

What’s needed is to rouse confidence in your ability to give…Rousing confidence starts with appreciating yourself as you are, extending warmth to yourself so that you can extend it naturally…to others.

– Madeline Bruser, The Art of Practicing

Spence here: I love that Billy and I joined forces this week to create this piece. It really was a true collaboration, in which we came at it with all our ideas, even painting simultaneously at times. Working together exposed the myriad of ways we go after a project, our rhythms, our strengths and things we admire about each other. We have co-created much in our lives, but until now have never painted together. I am looking forward to more–we learn to accept and embrace what we both bring to the table each day. In this reflection, I feel as though I am becoming a better person. I honor and appreciate the chance to be vulnerable and timid and to grow and change, (without sounding too corny), like the blossoms of the painting as they gather layers.

A 50 year-old Magnolia tree (the stump is about three feet in diameter), once stood in our friends’ yard before they bought the home. As it “threatened” the numerous shotty carports built underneath it by the previous owners, they thought it a good idea to chop it down. Actually, almost all of the trees in the yard were chopped down, previously. Our friends are in the process of returning the land to a more natural setting–getting rid of the football field effect has been step one. Planting an orchard, creating berms and planting native plants all around have been some of the latest steps. In homage to the old tree, and trees everywhere, taken out for our convenience, protection, aesthetic, ignorance and/or safety, we offer up this painting, which now hangs in beloved friends’ living room.

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