by Cindy Shearer, faculty member and Program Chair of the Department of Writing, Consciousness and Creative Inquiry
Years ago, I was friends with Larry, a printmaker. He made two kinds of prints—dark shapes or thinned-lined portraits, often a partial view, on white paper. When I think of him, I remember his absolute delight in showing me how to etch on plates and the force of his simple images. All—whether bold or soft—were evocative and resonant—and I wondered how? Why?
I didn’t realize it then—but the immediacy of the images touched me. I was a writer but was slowly becoming an inter-artist. Larry’s work as well as my friendships with other visual and performing artists inspired me to ask questions and close watching of art practices. When I spoke with artists, I listened carefully to what they said but also looked deeply into their work—each piece was an offering, which allowed me to further take in color, texture, perspective, technique and depth.
I was learning how to reconfigure the boundaries of writing and visual art. Ultimately, I would join tangible materials and the writing process, bringing text and image together. The art became (and is now) a living relationship between the artistic moment and the materials I have. Each piece gives me the chance to evoke its layers. It is an offering, the result of choices I make about the relationships evoked by and that are possible between words and tangible surfaces.
Recently, I’ve begun to explore the theme of offering directly (see Offering, 2010, mixed media on canvas, 5” by 7”): “But my offerings don’t arise from elements I’ve worked with or ways I can improvise or imagine. I summon them from within. Simply, they are (right now) what I have to give.” Our offerings, I’ve come to understand, arise deep from within us and allow us to deliberately decide both what and how we want to give—as oblation or sacrifice, contribution or gift and/or in public or private for spiritual, legal or financial/commercial reasons.
In Offering, I also incorporate an offering box into the canvas—I am literally making an offering to the viewer and hope to play with the viewers associations with offerings. I hope the box invites viewers to explore what offering means for them (reasons for it? the beauty of it?). I am also playing: I offer and also offer again. The piece, like others in the series, offers something—rings, coins, fabric—from a previously created piece. Each piece gives anew and re-uses—in different ways—what was already given. It gives and re-gifts. Like my learning from Larry and others’ work, I’ve come to understand the art we offer may need to be given more than once, in various forms, or across generations before it is fully taken in.