Thursday, April 21, 2022

Art Lessons: Part 4

Eckhart von Hochheim, known as Meister Eckhart, was a thirteenth century German theologian, philosopher and mystic.

I first became acquainted with Meister Eckhart’s “Let us borrow empty vessels” in Lewis Hyde’s The Gift, a book that has been very influential in my thinking about my work. Hyde describes art in the creation stage as a gift in two ways—the gift of the natural talents of the artist and the gift of inspiration. He sees a third stage, when the art leaves its maker’s hands. He writes: “The art that matters to us—which moves the heart, or revives the soul, or delights the senses, or offers courage for living, however we choose to describe the experience—that work is received by us as a gift received.”

By acknowledging the gifts we are given, we have companions in our work. We are not alone but inhabited by some larger spirit. I like to think beyond the work to the ultimate gift we are given, the gift of life and its fundamental element, the breath. With each one, we bring the outside in and let the inside out. It is all about balance. The exhale is as important as the inhale. My Alexander Technique teacher has taught me to exhale as completely as possible by counting from one to ten over and over until there is no breath left. And then, after a pause, to relax and let the air flow in. I am emptying the vessel that is me—of old thoughts and ideas, of resentments and disappointments—to make room for the new. 

We need to take in, pause and absorb, and release into new work. We need inspiration but not overload. We need to look at the work of our artist ancestors and our peers to renew and rekindle the spark within us while also protecting the space where our own voice lives and grows. To feed the strong center where the gift can flourish, we need to keep the balance of the breath in every thing we do. 


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