Sunday, June 18, 2006

Organizing and the Chaos Theory

My studio has finally gotten so bad that I can’t make art in there… time for a thorough re-organization! But first I’m gonna sit here on the patio for a while, avoiding it by blogging about it. ;-} I have never had much luck with organization of supplies… and I blame it on permutations. As most artists know, sometimes the beads (paint, fabric, paper) all want to go by color, and other times they scream to be gathered by type, or shape…. In order for my creativity to have full range, I need to lay out my supplies/inspiration in novel ways… and then it’s usually such a chore to put it all back that I… just… don’t. And the end result is an almost frightening pile of unknown, fragile, spillable, sharp, etc. stuff -- my husband won’t set foot in there, and I have hesitated at times, too. The occasional landslide that I set off by knocking the ironing board with my hip, or brushing past an extending sheet of stiff paper is frustrating, awesome, and keeps me reminded that we live in earthquake country. (And if we have an earthquake while I’m working, someone will have to come in and pull me out!) On the good side, I have quite often found a wonderful new idea lurking just off to my left… I turn my head and the neon yellow fabric is laying across the deep red pottery grotto box… it’s not something I’d ever choose, but it’s dramatic, powerful -- I have to push aside other projects to play with that!

And so it goes… It’s not that I don’t try -- I have shelving that allows me to stack vertically or horizontally, boxes both open and closed, opaque and see-through; I have mapped out where each thing needs to go in order to allow me room to walk… but it’s not enough… the stuff spills from every container… it just may be that I’m harboring elves, or gnomelets who have a hankering to play with yarn and fabric… or possibly the fabric itself comes out to play! (How else to explain that one corner that’s knee-deep?) There is some force working against a neatly organized studio… I swear I turn around and it’s piles again (the literature is right -- piles are painful).

Okay, I confess… too often I buy supplies without knowing exactly how I will fit them in… or, even more compelling, I get gifted with supplies (my husband is a part-owner at a book bindery and I’ve told him that throwing end rolls and scrap board away is sinful!)… I can’t just toss them! But I’m getting better at moving them on if I’m not gonna use them in the foreseeable future… there’s a wonderful place called S.C.R.A.P.S. here in Portland that allows teachers free or incredibly cheap access to whatever folks donate, and artists get some great bargains, too… so in the next week or so, I’m hauling another truck-load to them… But I’m sure the forces at work in my studio will just close over the gaps I make and shift like colored sand into new configurations.

Which brings me to chaos theory. According to online sources, chaos theory is really about finding the underlying order in apparently random data. I believe my studio process is brilliant at creating the underlying patterns necessary for me to create art -- and it has to do with my random gestures, including dropping things on the floor. (I’ve always believed God invented gravity for that reason… it certainly can’t be in order to help my middle-age appearance!) When I take a step back and examine the piles, there is a richness of color and texture that I can use for my next project… and then those piles get reordered, churned… much like a compost heap, and with the same result.

The Butterfly Effect, much touted as a weather source, has its effects in my studio as well. For those of you not familiar with it:

“The flapping of a single butterfly's wing today produces a tiny change in the state of the atmosphere. Over a period of time, what the atmosphere actually does diverges from what it would have done. So, in a month's time, a tornado that would have devastated the Indonesian coast doesn't happen. Or maybe one that wasn't going to happen, does.” (Ian Stewart, Does God Play Dice? The Mathematics of Chaos, pg. 141)

The online article goes on to say: This phenomenon, common to chaos theory, is also known as sensitive dependence on initial conditions. Just a small change in the initial conditions can drastically change the long-term behavior of a system. So what happens is that the little seed bead rolls under the table, where it seems to attract the scrap of painted paper, the tangle of red thread, the safety pin I drop unawares… and this somehow leads to the eventual landslide that takes weeks to sort out. Very like a tornado (or like the fan I turn on when the heat has melted my brain sufficiently to forget about thermodynamics…). It’s all physics, when you get down to it… the Universe has a vested interest in creating chaos patterns, and I am just its humble conduit…

… and now I’ve managed to blog long enough that I have to dress and go to a lunch date… the studio avoided one more day… ;-}

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