Jean Houston: At the height of laughter, the universe is flung into a kaleidoscope of new possibilities

I had a lovely evening with PoetrySue and Eleanor last night, we ended up laughing till my muscles ached, and though I didn’t enter a kaleidoscope of new possibilities, I did forget the pain for a few hours 😉

PoetrySue (who is also an excellent crafter and made a beautiful journal cover while she was here, which had I been more with it, I would have photographed, sigh…) came up with this pithy gem for flying free of the pattern:

off piste is better than p*ss*d off!

A few friends helped this week with moving paintings from high up on storage shelves onto walls in the warm end of the flat, so I have had the chance to look at favourite work from 2003 again. Those paintings explore the near monochrome and the hand drawn grid, inflection of colour within an extremely narrow palette…sorry, that got a bit art speak 😉 they are studies in paying attention! As you walk towards them they change from solid blocks of colour to a thousand shades and tints  that seem to draw you in…and expand possibilities? I hope so…

and this is what all my making shares…paying attention is rewarding, paying attention to all the hundred variations reveals there is no right or wrong way, no one perfect way to do anything.

I had to miss art class today, so, after sleeping off the chiropractic treatment and the painkillers, I tried to think a bit about what I need to put in my artist’s statement to make sense of the huge variety in results of my process, when I feel I am always making art the same way…my first solo exhibition, in 2001, showed process paintings with time and site-specific installations/assemblages made in public viewing hours (so almost performance) and I called it ‘the same but different’, because I felt they were. I got a warm reception for the paintings, but less so for the installations, which is probably one reason I didn’t show installations again till 2009. 😉


(detail: Hsien/Celestial, 2003)

Looking at the paintings, although they are not really accessible in the way a landscape is, they are clearly objects to be looked at as art. And sublime/ beautiful,  if  deep abstraction doesn’t make you uncomfortable (memories of the business man getting irate and shouting at ‘Never Forgetting Beauty’!!!) Installations and assemblages can be deeply uncomfortable for viewers, because of the content (think of the displays of the AIDS quilts covering several football pitches and Christian Boltanski’s  deeply moving work but also because they are not sure it is art…the more conceptual, the less accessible?  the more directly drawn from everyday life, the more mystifying? why are these bricks art and those ones to be used? and the more obscure/unexplained, the greater the fear that the viewer is being mocked somehow… (unlike spending £100 to go and see multimillionaires play a game for 2 hours on a piece of grass worth more the street you live on…?)


(detail: Pushing Buttons/Ringing Bells, 2011 installation incorporating community elements on memories in the mind of someone with dementia, shown at Cherrytrees Care Home, Nottingham – note statements stuck to doors!)

I always include a statement about the whole exhibition and one per installation, because no one has to read it, but pretending everyone will feel comfortable trying to explore a piece without a few encouraging words is just elitist, in my opinion. Living on a council estate in a rough town has made that view set in concrete for me. Andy and I managed to get people on our street to exhibitions and poetry readings who would have been happier at bikers’ rallies and football matches, and we were always very clear we saw our skills as important to use but no more special then being able to drive or dry stone wall or set a hedge…skills we appreciated and wished the art world appreciated as much as moneygrabbing warhol repeats etc.,

Talk about between a rock and a hard place! Being caught between the high art elitists who look down on craft and manual skills and the general public who think artists are snobs who deliberately say things the most complicated and exclusive way possible, when they even deign to try and explain their work….oh my! Thinking about all this side of presenting art is so depressing, compared to MAKING art! Which is so counter-intuitive…

Because the WHOLE process should be full of possibility!

What can be more passionate than the sharing of vision? Yes, construction, but art that hopes to ignite possibility in others, should be ardent, burning, a phoenix, that will be reborn in the art that the inspired viewer then feels compelled to make…a baton passed on…

Soren Kierkegaard:  If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of the potential; for the eye, which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints, possibility never. And what wine is so sparkling,so intoxicating, so fragrant as possibility!

There is a lovely term, being a possibilitarian: I like being a queen of possibility, I like the idea of passing the baton…which is part of what I do here on the blog, and why this, my 100th post is about possibility 😉


What joyful making, what ardent inspiration will you be experiencing this weekend?