In front of the John Lennon Wall in Prague.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Last Post of 2013: Inspired by David Hockney

I can think of no better way to spend a lovely San Francisco afternoon than to go to the museum. Two days ago I went to see the David Hockney exhibition at the De Young Museum in San Francisco.  This is one of the largest current exhibitions of his work in the United States.  Of course it has been wildly popular, so I had the bright idea of joining the hordes of people flowing into the museum on a holiday weekend to view it.  My friend Charlotte had told me it was life changing, which made me both eager to see the work and a little skeptical. I didn’t know much about Hockney other than that he painted a lot of pretty blue swimming pools in L.A. back in the 1970’s.

At first it was difficult to enjoy the art, especially since I kept stumbling over people with audio guides glued to their ears. I was cranky, not happy to be trapped with all those strangers, but as I started to weave my way through the crowds, the art did what art always does: it took hold of me.

What was it that grabbed me, that shook something loose in me?  Partly it was the color and scale of the work. I loved having to put my head back to gaze up at his huge canvases full of vibrant color as well as individual works mounted in groups high up to the ceiling.   

Partly it was his use of technology. I was mesmerized by the drawings he had done on his iPad and iPhone. I loved the fact that this man in his 70’s continues to embrace new media to accomplish his art. The quality of those drawings is different, soft and with a rather mysterious air about them, as if the world they depict was misty, with a haze in the air that put everything into soft focus.

However, it wasn’t just the vibrant color that enthralled me. I found out that recently Hockney has been working in charcoal to record the same views of his native Yorkshire countryside at different times of the day and season.  I’ve always been such a sucker for color that I’ve never been much interested in drawings.  But those series of charcoal drawings stunned me.  Running up and down the walls, they made me stop and look slowly at each one. I thought about how I have forgotten to do this very thing – sit and reflect and record the passing of the day and what is happening around me.  I’ve been too busy worrying about the twists and turns of my own mind to sit and observe what is going on around me.

I did that last summer at Ghost Ranch – every morning going outside and gazing at the sky, trying to experience what each day brought. But recently, after the initial euphoria of establishing my writing routine, I’d forgotten to lift my eyes from the page to look at the stripe of sun that falling across the page of my journal. Or watch how I  make shadows dance with my pen as I carry it along the pages. I have forgotten to notice the sweet, spicy scent of the candle that burns among my jumble of rocks and flotsam that I’ve gathered to remind me of the person I want to become. 

What I got from the exhibit:  the reminder to look up, look up, look forward. And take hold of everything at your disposal to create.To make sure I don't forget (at least for a little while), I bought this print of one of Hockney's watercolors.