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Art as the First Course

Making visual art is easy for me. Writing is more of a challenge. I started writing when I began to immerse my life into music, because I was catapulted into solitude after my ex-husband left me, lo, these many years ago. My focal points had shifted. I turned inward. There was no one to talk to except myself.

Writing is a challenge because it is not my first language for expressing myself as visual art language is. That I have chosen to write mostly about creative improvised makes the most sense to me; it happened fortuitously.

That I would approach an art form that was relatively new to me and that required a real effort to become comfortable with is no surprise. My visual art is concerned with simplification-- boiling an idea down to its essence. Improvised music elevates that essence in clear view and expands on it within temporal, music-making parameters that are known only after the music is performed.

Every time I hear a recording or a performance from a musician I know or not, the music is totally unexpected. The performance space is like a blank piece of paper. The musicians are the vehicles for filling the space, like the artist who is responsible to that empty surface. Their instruments are the tools, just like pencils, pens, brushes, markers are for the visual artist.

I am giving a talk on my work in a couple of days, October 1, 2010, to be exact. In this talk, I will trace 40 years worth of work. At first, culling through hundreds of slides, I became so depressed. It was as if I was experiencing the processes of making the art pieces and then choking on endless repetitions of their object-ness.

William Parker once said to me that he never listened back to what he had recorded unless it was for a specific technical or mechanical reason. I can understand why. Why would anyone want to revisit the scene of the improvisation? Whatever one does later will always be different. The only possible explanation for returning to one's work after it has long been accomplished is out of curiosity, to find out how much integrity the work really has.

I find often that when doing new work, some of the old is reflected in it. To my amazement, the "old" part may be, as far as I am concerned, at the beginning of consciousness, when I began to know what it meant to wield a pencil or in a larger context, have an idea, for Heaven's sakes.

The idea seems innocuous enough, but the idea causes struggle. My mind is built a certain way; it is happy living in a routine, a realm of sameness. Pushing out of the routine is basically like pulling teeth without Novocaine. The amount of objectivity required to move the idea in a new direction is paramount to the evolution of the work.

How that idea plays out in the world is unimportant in the ideal sense. I have to keep reminding myself that it is more satisfying to do the work than to have it on the cover of Artforum or Art In America, for instance. In some ways, I would be lying, because that is all I want. That is what I vociferously told this "manager" I had years ago. Well, he was thrown in jail because he double-dipped in fees (he skimmed from duped clients as well as the artists) and his representation of artists was a fraudulent act or so the Attorney General of the State of New York at the time believed.

I have made many mistakes. I am hoping that the era of my life where I make the wrong choices is over. Because I am coming into the second cycle of my time here on earth according to the Chinese calendar. The mistakes I have made still irk me no end. Going through the "what if.." question and answer sessions consumes time and is useless.

My talk is supposed to involve the correlation between improvisation in art and music. The one to one correspondence does not necessarily exist. But the direct reason for my being able to write about music is that I do the art. I go through an automatic act. I feel every line. Then, after awhile, the experience subsumes the singularity of each line. I am in a kind of heaven. The problem is staying there and not being distracted, which I am, by other tasks. Perhaps, I would not do well in a retreat or an artists colony because I need to do dishes, or the wash. But maybe I don't. Maybe a retreat would calm me down and ameliorate my propensity for distraction. Like one long meditative process, where I have reached down into my soul and am relaxed and determined enough to stay there.

copyright 2010 Lyn Horton

Video: copyright 2010 Richard Laurie and Lyn Horton

Image: copyright 2010 Lyn Horton, Detail from Strand Series, 2010.


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