Maps & Muses

Art is risky.
Art is like a shipwreck, DuChamp said, and it’s every man for himself.
Be willing to get lost, to be marooned.
Wander the kingdom and find your own way home.
That’s the only way to make art.
Habits and expectations, sticking with what worked before, fear of failure – all those things just get in the way, evoke repetitive gestures and same old ways. Step off the beaten path and let yourself be ambushed by ideas.

Here’s a little experiment to reawaken riskiness and reconnect with the accidental muse:

Take a good sheet of paper, rag content if possible…
use it as a placemat for a few days,
set your drippy coffee cup on it,
scorch it with an iron,
smoke it over a campfire,
use it as a blotter on your workable,
poke holes in it,
tack it to a tree and throw dusty rocks at it for awhile,
wipe up a spill with it,
stick it in a fan for a minute,
bury it for a week folded up with rusty nails,
tear off some chunks and reattach them,
leave it out in the rain.

Detail from “Little Map of Lost Days” by Rita J. McNamara.

Since we don’t know where we’re going anyway, this well-traveled piece of paper is as good a roadmap as any. It’s a battered survivor with lots of stories and souvenirs. It’s been around the block. Add your own marks in between the scars, sketch in imaginary trails, mark off the scenic routes, the points of interest, the boundary hedges, the stony paths. Scribble in a few notes from the road. Make them illegible.

Detail from “Little Map of Lost Days” by Rita J. McNamara.

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to, ” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where,” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“- so long as I get somewhere,”Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
– from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

“Little Map of Lost Days” by Rita J. McNamara.

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