Thursday, July 14, 2011

Gardening as parallel practice

Recently a fellow artist friend gave me the May '11 issue of Art in America to share an article on parallel practices called, "Artists in a Parallel Universe." In it, a panel of artists were asked (in February at the College Art Association conference) to discuss their non-art related activities when they aren't making art, those that feed their art practices. One of the artists, Vija Celmins, turns to gardening and calls herself an "avid weed-puller." While reading this I thought, hey I do that too, I pull weeds as a respite from studio work. However, this summer rather than being in a dry spell as the article addressed, I am thankfully making art. Perhaps I find pulling weeds to be even more informative during this busy time. It is a practice in which I don't have to make decisions. I know what stays in the ground and what goes into the compost, there's no second-guessing. With weeding there is a set task to do, and once it is done something has been accomplished. This is a great encouragement when minute and large artistic decisions leave my mind feeling like soup.
From this parallel practice I also bring back to the studio the recognition that having a drawing going at all times is vital for me. The above drawing is one I am working on this summer. On the table it waits, so I add a group of lines first thing of a morning or paint on at the end of the day. A little bit at a time. Not all at once. Like weeding, one plot at a time.


  1. What a cool concept. I realize that I did this parallel practice today but slightly different. I was feeling stuck and frustrated with my kids... so I picked up my Felcos and thinned the lemon tree. The tree looks much better and I feel calm, happy and open to whatever came next. Whew.

  2. I'm not at all surprised that Vija Celmins turns to gardening. I've always liked her. There is something about the simple manual nature of gardening that opens mind space. I miss it. Little by little seems to be working well for you.

  3. I've been thinking a lot about weeding lately, so I really appreciate your words above. I used to dread weeding. But it's inevitable so I'm trying to embrace it as part of my life of a gardener. I really like your approach of not having to make decisions, I feel the same way. If I try, I can make it a meditative experience. And the satisfaction of having accomplished something really does wonders for the soul.