I was asked – well, that’s my interpretation of the incident – in revisiting my artistic past, my dead ends – to pay attention to focus.
Is focus the same as theme? As nouns, yes. Focus is also a verb. To focus. An action word. It requires the action of thinking.
Deliberate thinking. The sort of thinking that requires deliberate action, deliberate arranging – taking control of – the space and time in which to think.
I’ve been thinking. About my past artistic dead ends. And I saw that they weren’t dead ends but crossroads I turned away from, unable, for lack of focus, to choose which road-less-travelled to take. And there are millions at each cross-roads, aren’t there?
I’ve been thinking about the images I’m using in these small encaustics. About what drew me to take photographs of leaves being wind-tossed about the surface of a small pond, of the endlessly shape-shifting reflections of the trees that overhung the pond-as-mirror, their constant coming into and out of focus. A pond in front of a pretentious pretend Chinese Pagoda (designed by Fragonard) in the town of L’Isle-Adam, near Paris.
And why I felt drawn to include in my little history of the town and its forest, in which I loved to walk, the story of a woman who lived and died in the 1600s and who, as a girl, was tossed from France to Canada as a fille du roi (child of the King) by forces beyond her control, just like those harried leaves and tormented reflections; a woman who gave birth to 13 children, the first in her teens when she was unmarried, most of whom she lost to death; whose road ran out when she was discovered frozen to death on a bridge of the Beaufort River.
The woman – Marguerite Boucault – may have had, may not have had, a connection with L’Isle-Adam. The connection is only in her maiden name of Boucault, which is the same as the name of a path through the forest of L’Isle-Adam. I tried to find the origin of its name. I went to the tourist office. An assistant phoned a local historian. To my embarrassment and shock, I burst into tears in the telling of the woman’s story.
I’ve made several of these small works. More is in the pipeline. I love that I can trap this story and its resonances with my own, in wax. That I can look through the glossy and glassy layers into that world, those worlds. Surfaces of frozen tears. And that I can look any time I like at the encapsulated chaos, tragedy and triumph. And this begs questions about control:
How much of our lives can we truly say we control? When we aren’t in control, who or what is? How much art is driven by the need to control and contain? To stave off?
“Once the body had been dried, using salt or natron, the wound was closed and a plaque of wax or gold bearing a wedjat eye was placed over it, held in position by molten resin. The wedjat eye symbolized the left eye of Horus which was plucked out by Seth during a conflict over the throne. It was magically restored by the gods, and was regarded as a powerful protective amulet.
The wedjat eye was thought to heal the wound by magic and protect the body from demons, who might try to enter it through the incision. The plaque was often made of gold, which does not tarnish, thus the protection was believed to last forever. Wax also had protective associations for the ancient Egyptians, and was also used for figures of enemies or demons which were ritually destroyed.”
I’m thinking of all the bits of me that are still standing at crossroads, waiting for me to return and choose the road. And I’m looking forward to welcoming myself back to myself at different times and crossroads. That’s quite a quantum thought.
Are you in the process of revisiting yourself?