Martha Graham

I have to share a profound quotation from dancer and choreographer Martha Graham that my friend and fellow artist Shirley Wagner just shared with me:

There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. . . . No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.

Context deepens the resonance of her words for me. The quotation comes courtesy of fellow choreographer Agnes de Mille, in Martha: The Life and Work of Martha Graham (Random House, p. 264), who precedes the Graham quotation with: “The greatest thing she ever said to me was in 1943 after the opening of Oklahoma!, when I suddenly had unexpected, flamboyant success for a work I thought was only fairly good, after years of neglect for work I thought was fine. I was bewildered and worried that my entire scale of values was untrustworthy. I talked to Martha. I remember the conversation well. It was in a Schrafft’s restaurant over a soda. I confessed that I had a burning desire to be excellent, but no faith that I could be. Martha said to me, very quietly . . .”

Researching this quotation led me to these other inspiring gems from Graham, the sources of which I don’t know, unfortunately:

I believe that we learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same. In each, it is the performance of a dedicated precise set of acts, physical or intellectual, from which comes shape of achievement, a sense of one’s being, a satisfaction of spirit. One becomes, in some area, an athlete of God. Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire. Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired.

Read more of this at the web site This I Believe. Also:

All that is important is this one moment in movement. Make the moment important, vital, and worth living. Do not let it slip away unnoticed and unused.

Dancing is just discovery, discovery, discovery.

Nobody cares if you can’t dance well. Just get up and dance. Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion.

Monday, July 16

Here I am blogging about our day on the same day. Except for filling in some text, that means I’m caught up. Hallelujah!

We rearranged the shop today. Or, rather, mostly Jean-François and Sean rearranged the shop, changing spots so that we can better take advantage of the natural light. Here is how the shop looks now. What you see when you walk in is still my area, but with the wall behind the workbench gone. Beyond me (to the right in the photo) is now Jean-François’s work area.

Entering the shop.

Looking more to the right, you see this. The bench with our shared tools is behind the post.

The center of the room.

Here is a closer view of Jean-François’s new work area. He gets direct light from the window on his work when he is turning outboard.

Jean-François's new work space.

Looking farther right, you see Siegfried’s corner. We cleared space in the back area for Lesya to dance in on community day. Siegfried may move his lathe back into that space after Lesya leaves us this week.

Siegfried's corner.

And, finally, as you look all the way right, across from my area and behind the entryway wall is Sean’s new work area.

Sean's new work space.

Because she was ill most of last week, Lesya is still with us this week. She is developing dances for one piece from each of us, and Vince Romaniello, the videographer from last year’s ITE, will be filming her for screening at the opening, which she cannot attend. She will also help carve and texture some of the waves for the wave collaboration.

Lesya rearranges the waves.

Siegfried, whose work I have neglected in recent days, has started the carving and texturing. I will do some carving and maybe some coloring later. Elisabeth may come by and do some too. (Are you reading this, Elisabeth?)

Siegfried carves the waves.

Some of the carved waves.

Here are some of the other pieces I’ve failed to adequately document recently. Siegfried’s collaboration with Peter has two deep, thin-walled box elder bowls suspended on cables in a concrete-and-walnut structure. The cable on the left bows out, so the bowl leans out of the structure. The concrete still needs to be sealed, but otherwise this piece is done.

Siegfried's collaboration with Peter.

Here is Siegfried’s thin-walled concrete bowl. Antique-brown wax has been applied to the surface.

Siegfried's cement bowl.Another view of Siegfried's cement bowl.

Jean-François’s thin-walled cement bowl is quite different.

Jean-François's cement bowl.

Jean-François took these pictures of his three-bowl Chinese elm series while I closed in on the tail of the blog.

Jean-François's Chinese elm series.

Closeup of Jean-François's Chinese elm bowls.

Sean has been productive recently too. These are the latest incarnations of familiar pieces.

Sean's 'holey man' sculpture.Another of Sean's sculptures.

A finished sculpture.The other side.

These are some pieces I hadn’t seen before.

New work by Sean.

Another sculpture.The other side.

Now that I’m catching up on the blog, I get to turn too! Here is a small barkless-natural-edge sycamore bowl that I began during community day. I have pierced tiny holes near the rim. I may do more after I sit with it a bit.

A small, carved sycamore bowl.

This is a very simple new bowl I turned all but the base of today. Jean-François and I will use it in a collaboration.

End-grain sycamore bowl.