Embracing the Darkness (and a peek at my event Nyctophilia)
I thought it would be interesting to share with you the inspiration behind my last event, which took place in Oregon last weekend. More pictures from the event (and a concise explanation) will be posted on my website, Facebook page, and Instagram on Sunday, so don't forget to check back!
A while ago, I did a little experiment with myself. I went on a sunset hike into a beautiful forest in Oregon. It was a new moon and as the sun went down and the light from it faded, I realized I was in total blackness. I was far from civilization so there was no light pollution, and it was overcast so I couldn’t even see the stars. Pitch Black. Instead of reaching for my flashlight, though, I decided to give myself permission to just BE in the darkness. I didn’t stray too far away from the trail that would take me home, but I did start moving slowly across the forest floor using my other senses to guide me. At first it was uncomfortable, scary even… but after a little chance to get used to it I found it absolutely magical. My hands felt more alive than they ever have before, exploring the details of the plants around me with a curious vigor. Never have I been so aware of just how the gills on mushrooms feel or the specific spongy softness of each particular kind of moss. I sat there in the cold and dark with a huge smile on my face as I slowly ran my hands over everything within my reach. I pricked myself on a blackberry bush and laughed at how much the sudden sting startled me - my senses certainly were heightened at this point. But the rush of danger soon faded as I found the stem, and the leaf, and recognized an old friend.
That was the night the seed for Nyctophilia was planted. I knew that I wanted to create a body of work focusing on texture over all else. I chose to work in all black and spent months searching for the right clay body and doing test firings until everything was turning out as I hoped it would. I painstakingly sculpted many different textures based on things I’d seen out in nature: barnacles, mussel shells, pock-marked rocks, old wood. I left some of the bowls blank, intending to add their textures after firing. To those I added more intriguing textures, from super-soft faux fur to bouncy wool to papery mushrooms to squishy tentacles. It was an endlessly fun exploration of material and texture, and I was very happy with the finished series of Black Magic bowls. But what to do with them?
A couple of other little tidbits of inspiration came across my mind in the months to follow. One was hearing about a special restaurant where the food is served completely in the dark. Completely in the dark! What a strange feeling that must be, to pick up and dine on food without being able to see it to inform your biases about it beforehand. But what a beautiful way to become more engaged with it in other ways. I was sure that if I experienced food in such a way I would certainly become more aware of the textures and flavors of the food than I would otherwise. I tested it out at home, and found that indeed I was! Once again at first I felt a bit uneasy and uncomfortable but I soon fell into an almost-meditative state focusing on the flavors on my tongue instead of the millions of distractions that compete for my attention at normal mealtimes.
Then, a while later, I attended a dance class designed to be a “connection workshop.” The connection you have with your dance partner is a huge part of your dance experience. There are people I dance with that I immediately feel comfortable and connected to and have a wonderful time dancing with. Then there are others that, though they may be talented dancers, I have trouble connecting with and both of us stumble awkwardly and robotically through the moves. This workshop was intended to teach people about the nature and importance of connection in dance, and one of our activities involved blindfolds. Half the room was blindfolded and held up their hands in front of them. The other half was free to roam around and engage in a dance with any blindfolded person by placing their hands on the outreached ones and gently leading them, then fading away as gently as they had come. We progressed from hands touching hands to forearms touching forearms, and each time was a very interesting sensation for me. I felt extremely vulnerable not knowing who I was dancing with or when they would come and go, but after a while it started to feel intensely magical. Instead of trying to crack the identities of my various dance partners by searching for telling jewelry or amounts of arm hair, I surrendered myself to the experience and thought of my myriad of dance partners as simply “other.” And the “others” showed me true, respectful, delicate intimacy and by the time I took my blindfold off, I felt invigorated!
Through each of these experiences, I noticed a common thread: discomfort and vulnerability turning into a new depth of sensory experience turning into absolute glee at the beauty I was experiencing. I wanted to share that magic with others, which is why I designed “Nyctophilia.” I created a framework that would allow guests the same opportunities to experience the world through the eyes of…well…no eyes. To find the vulnerability, sensuality, and beauty in the darkness. More coming soon.
As always, if you like what I do and want to support me or get involved, take a look at my patreon page. Even $5 a month helps!
P.S. I didn't plan it, but how appropriate that I am posting this on Black Friday?