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I am a Field of All Possibilities, 24" x 24", 2020, by Jeanne Beck

I have a lifelong love of setting out on a new path. There's a rush of anticipation for what I'll discover, a sense of adventure and mystery for what unanticipated surprises may present themselves; and truly, whatever the outcome may be, I've never been disappointed in the experience.

I took a workshop last spring in Santa Fe with Lauren Mantecon; it was a tough few days where I struggled with my inner critic. Following that session, she invited me to join her for a 13-month intensive class with seven other women, combining on-line meetings, personal critiques and in-studio workshops at her studio in Santa Fe. We were scheduled to start this past April, but in light of the COVID-19, we postponed our first workshop until October. That may end up being postponed as well.

Meanwhile I feel like I am in a major transition in my work and it seems to be starting even if the group intensive is delayed. Sheltering-in during this pandemic is actually making room for the explorations I've been craving, as well as bringing a slower pace to my life and my work.

My gallery is only open by appointment. My workshops and classes have been cancelled until.. Hardly the ideal time to return to blogging. Yet this new phase feels so important I've decided to share the thoughts, writings and work I do over the next 13 months.

A month or two ago, I took out my sander and sanded the heck out of two paintings I've reinvented three or four times. I liked the distressed look and how some of the paint layers beneath began to show. How did I forget how much I love sanding surfaces?!?

I let one painting rest and started adding paint to the other one. But then I didn't like the paint, so I sprayed water on it and started rubbing it to get it off. Then I added more water and kept rubbing - then oh no, some of the paper started lifting up. But wait, I loved the worn look of those ripped away areas and kept going.

When I stopped for a bit and looked at it, I realized how much I liked the peeled away paper. Truly I was doing an archeological reveal of the layers beneath, so I spritzed, rubbed and pulled back until much of the painting and collage on the adhered paper was gone and some white paper and layers peeking through of the previous painting underneath were all that were left.

The two samples above on the left show details of the sanded acrylics as the layers got removed. The image on the right shows the end of the session - most of the surface wet and scraped away with some washes of diluted acrylic over the still soggy paper.

At the top of this page is the completed piece, now titled. "I Am a Field of All Possibilities."

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I walked into my studio earlier this month and saw, to my shock, that my huge installation work in progress was hanging by one chain instead of four. That day, while I waited for help to arrive to fix it, a young couple walked in to the gallery. They didn't realize the piece was anything other than supposed to look this way, and found it fascinating. Both commented how it looked like a cascading waterfall with water flowing on to the floor.

Seeing it through their eyes it stopped looking like a potential disaster and more like an idea that could be developed intentionally for the future.

One small chain held this whole piece up. When the other chains came down, the wooden hanger evidently tilted up against the suspended ceiling and helped add some support.

My husband soon arrived to help, and we carefully reconnected the other three supports to the ceiling grids. For the next two days, I untangled the chains and figured out where to rehang them. Many had fallen and come apart. Three days later, the piece provided a stunning backdrop when we welcomed 400 visitors to the gallery for Downtown Canandaigua's August Wine Walk.

It's surprising to me how unanticipated problems and obstacles can create new opportunities.. I like the idea of combining the openness of the left hanger and the denseness of the circular cluster on the right. My mind is quietly considering how I could make this happen intentionally - bent wood, wire form, free standing wire and wooden structure?

Isn't it rather surprising (and encouraging) how problems and setbacks can create new insights and opportunities?

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I spent the first week of May in Santa Fe, my third art retreat with my friend Diane. We immersed ourselves in journaling, painting, visiting galleries and talking non-stop about art, creative process and our challenges, desires and directions.

We set up the dining room table in our condo as our pre and post-class painting area. We'd wake up in the morning, eat, dress, go to the workshop and paint big, eat, then have a glass of wine or cup of tea and paint small until we went to bed.

Each day in the workshop I created (pretty much) a whole new painting. On the previous day's painting!

On the first day at Lauren Mantecon's studio for her four-day "Anything Goes: Working Large and More" workshop, I worked in greyscale for my painting start, just throwing marks and elements on the canvas playfully and without any thought.

The second workshop day, I selected the word "place" as an inspiration. Once I did, I could see architectural structures forming on this version. I added color, pushing back some elements and bringing others forward. I tried whatever came to mind, exploring, feeling my way. No matter that it was rough and unresolved, I liked what was happening and felt I could refine and improve it.

On day three, after a chakra-opening exercise, I became deeply aware of my desire for expansiveness and heart-opening. I completely covered up the second day painting start and headed in a new direction.

One of the most valuable parts of a workshop like this one is working alongside other artists. It really brought it home that I am not the only one who experiences highs and lows as I create. Almost every artist in the room had to reinvent each day. They took risks that didn't work, then reinvented and tried something else. It was amazing to both observe and participate in that process, because even though I invent and reinvent on my own in my studio, the sheer scale of a whole room full of artists doing the same alongside me was incredible. Such intense energy!

All the stimulation and perceptions from the week are still percolating inside. As my considerations lead to insights about where my art practice is heading and why, I'll share some of them with you.

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