Red Heart Blue Heart

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Red Heart Blue Heart
By Rebecca Haseltine
© 2017

This body of work began as a simple exploration of the heart as a muscle with an active fluid interior.  A close friend of mine was in the hospital with chest pains last winter, so I spent time in the hospital studying heart anatomy.  I realized I was less familiar with the anatomy of the heart than lots of other parts of the body.  I was reminded that the heart wraps around itself when it is formed in the embryo.  The blood that gushes through the heart is a force that shapes the inside of the heart.  These two things inspired the red heart blue heart pieces.

As I worked, another friend was in the hospital and I thought she might die, so grief became a part of the work.  She didn’t die, and my other friend is fine, but this series is not just about anatomy.  While I worked on this series I was distraught over the recent election and the prospects for the environment, for equal rights, and for health care.  Red heart blue heart is also a blues song about my country.  I’m longing for my country to have one heart.

I return to the dynamic of the heart – she never pauses, really, though there are rests between each squeeze.  It is an intense and perpetual-until-we-die wild animal inside that sustains equilibrium through a rhythmic and spiraling squeeze and receive, open and close, rock and roll.

 

 

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Sluice

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Sluice
By Rebecca Haseltine
© 2016

I taught a course on the skeletal system in the summer of 2016.  We studied the anatomy and embodied the bones by moving, humming into them and tapping them. For weeks my bones were speaking more loudly than usual.  These pieces came out of that experience of bone – in particular the vibration of bone.  The mineral content of bone creates a crystalline structure that not only supports weight but also transmits sound. Remember that feeling watching a parade go by and the sound of the bass drums vibrating your body? The body reverberates with all sound, and the bones are particularly resonant.

The experience of vibration in the bones emerged as a deep blue in these pieces.  As I worked on the series I was also preoccupied with a dread about the melting of polar ice caps and the loss of that anchor for the earth’s temperature and water systems. This concern seems to have seeped into this series, because the images look like ice and deep water.  For me the pieces contain both the original source and the underlying emotional content.

‘Sluice’ refers to a narrow passage through which water is channeled.  It’s also a verb meaning to run water over, as in mining, to rinse the dirt from the gold or silver. 

 

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The Body is Not a Figure

By Rebecca Haseltine  
(c) February 2017

Artist Talk

“The Body is not a Figure”
Think Round Fine Arts

[This is a paraphrasing of my artist talk at Think Round Fine Arts in February 2017]

Why art?  After the election in 2016, a lot of us were asking ourselves what we were doing.  With the country coming apart at the seams, what was the point of making art?  I know many artists began making political art, or added more political content to their work.  I found that the experience of shock and distress that the election created did come into my work, but not in a literal way.

When I was around 9 years old my family drove over the Grapevine to visit the brand new LA County Museum of Art.  It was situated near the Labrea Tar Pits, so as we drove down I had an image of the museum somehow sitting in the middle of a tar pit.  The whole thing was very exciting:  art and dinosaur bones in one spot!  As we approached the museum, this image was verified – I could see the tall museum building was indeed standing in a big puddle.  It turned out this was a decorative moat of water, not tar, but the image forever sticks in my head as an art museum rising out of a tar pit.

In the museum I came around a corner and saw a giant blue painting.  It was all blue.  That was it.  Bright blue and nothing else. I was stopped.  Why did the artist paint all one color?  Why blue?  Why this blue?  Why did the museum hang this painting?  What am I doing staring at it?  I began to see the light reflecting on the surface of the painting, and began to see more than blue.  But I didn’t get it.  Something was being communicated to me and I didn’t know what it was.  But I could feel something. 

Then I encountered a series of erotic drawings by Picasso.  I stared at them secretly so my parents wouldn’t see me looking.  I didn’t understand.  Why did the museum hang these drawings and not other ones?  Why was Picasso drawing cartoons of naked people?  Why were there men that were part bull?  I didn’t understand, but I could tell he was doing something, and something was being communicated, because I could feel it.

This feeling of not understanding but feeling – that is where my work comes from.  That place of I don’t understand is a well from which an endless stream of images can emerge. 

When I was a young adult I visited a retrospective of George Brach’s paintings at the Berkeley Art Museum.  I had seen cubism before, but not up close like that.  I ate the paintings one after another with a ridiculous awe.  This, I realized, THIS is REALISM!  This is what things actually look like when your eye jumps from one thing to another and you see a color here, an edge there, and everything is jumbled together in your head.  I was stunned.  This was so brilliant – that an artist could portray how things actually looked!

So why art?  It can do things other things can’t do.  It can talk about things that otherwise we wouldn’t be able to describe.  It’s a translation of our experience into something we can look at.  What does this have to do with how the world runs?  I have no idea, but I do know that we also create another world that is unorganized and unorganizable, that is ungoverned and ungovernable.  This is the world that my work emerges from.

My show is titled “The Body is not a Figure”.  This is to highlight somatic perception and to free up the body from what it looks like.  There is a figurative tradition that I respect and have studied deeply.  For 25 years I’ve also been working from a different perspective, that of direct experience – the body as an experience.  

Are you your body?  Is your body you?  Does your body belong to you?  Do you belong to your body? Are you in your body?  Is your body in you?  [We discussed this; one person said her spirit was free from her body, and that when she dies, her spirit will be completely free.  Another person talked about living in a body that is injured and disabled and she used the word ‘betrayed’ – she felt betrayed by her body.] These are not answerable questions, but they’re not rhetorical questions.  They are living questions.

We can bring our awareness into our body and take a deep journey. We can become aware of our lungs, feel them breath in and out.  We can tune into the lung tissue itself and feel it expand and condense. We can become aware of our lung cells, and feel them expand and condense.  We can at least imagine the molecules that make up the cells.  We can then imagine the atoms that make up the molecules.  There is a huge space between the nucleus of the atom, with its protons and neutrons, and the electron shell. You can imagine a football field:  the nucleus is a fly in the center of the field, and the electrons are a bunch of gnats flying around the edge of the field.  We can also imagine two or three gnats flying all over the place between the fly nucleus and the edge of the field.  Either way this is a huge empty space with a few gnats zooming around in it.  In every atom.  We are made of mostly of empty space.  There is more emptiness inside than substance.  I find this deeply comforting.

In another way the body carries a memory of our ancestry:  we can bring awareness into the bones, for example, and find our way back to our ancestors in Africa, and then we can feel our way back to the apes that preceded the Australopithecines and Neanderthals. We can keep finding our way back to the earliest mammal ancestors, all the way back to that creature that first pulled itself out of the sea and decided to slog around on land.  Before that we were sea creatures, and before that were our earliest ancestors, the first life: single-cell beings living in the sea. From there we can go back to the elements that coalesced to form these cells.  These minerals are present from the earliest beginnings of the earth, which was born out of the formation of the solar system. And the solar system expanded and formed out of its beginnings in the big bang.  Here we are again with vast space. This is ancestry.  We know it via the body.  The body knows what it is made of and where it came from.  I find this comforting.

There’s so much information there to be tapped into, and the body does give us so much that is unknown, and seemingly unknowable.  But it can always give us experience.  And we can know our experience in that inner knowing way.  The knowing without knowing.  And this, for me, is why art. 

Version 3

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Source Material

By Rebecca Haseltine
09/20/16

This is risky to do, but I’d like to share some source material.  It’s risky because these are photographs of nature and art will never be as beautiful as nature. Art is something else, maybe less about beauty and more about the longing for a kind of beauty that expresses what we can’t see.

Actually it was the experience of looking at the water and stones and roots that sits inside as source material. The pictures remind me of that experience. If I share them, you won’t have the experience to refer to – all you have is the photo. This is another risk – that communication will be flat.

The pictures are a means of note-taking; the camera has replaced the notebook. These events of nature simply occurred and I happened to see them.  Nature is an undirected and messy thing – and the phenomena are huge, microscopic and orderly at the same time. I hope to have something undirected and messy in my work and can only hint at the deeper levels.

What I see here are flow patterns in water and in wood.  But wood isn’t only wood – it is a record of a tree having lived, and the wood shows something about that process of living.  And it looks to me so much like the movement of water.

And the patterns and movements of water are not just about flow – the mind and action of water shapes the plants and also shapes us – in ways that we are still learning. The action of water within our interior landscape is huge, microscopic, orderly and messy.

 

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Inner Matrix

Rebecca Haseltine 04/11/16

Here are some stages of one piece in my next series — based on tides, glial cells, and autonomic balancing. This doesn’t mean this is what the pieces are about, necessarily. That will be up to the viewer. These sources are just that – the beginning inspiration. In this piece in particular I began to see things that were different from the source. I like that – that a piece can begin with one set of connections, develop new connections along the way, and then once it is shown, create images in people’s minds that could be anything – related or unrelated to the piece’s beginnings.

 

 

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ink, chaos

 

 

Version 2

more days, flips, layers

 

 

Version 3

several days and accidents later.

 

 

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Understory

Rebecca Haseltine  03/20/16

 

These images show a sequence of steps that are mostly invisible in the final pieces.

This project grew out of grief. There were dozens of wildfires burning up and down California last summer (2015) during our fourth year of drought. A 150,000 acre fire burned in the Kings Canyon area, destroying some of the most beautiful wilderness in the state.

I chose photographs I had taken of bleached cedar roots – from trees killed not by fire but by logging – and the images looked like bones to me – tree bones.  Then I made drawings from the photographs.

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Even though I focused on the shape of the roots, these pencil sketches started to look like anatomical drawings, so then I added somatic drawing.

 

 

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Then I poured ink on top of the drawings, and this ended up looking like fire, accidentally but appropriately.  It  also looked like a lot of other things.

 

 

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During this process I wasn’t going for an image, just layering wet ingredients on top of dry to see what would show through. When the pieces are backlit, especially hung in front of a window, you can see the ‘bones and sinews’ showing through.

 

 

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Last two photos by Judy Reed Photography

 

 

 

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Rebecca Haseltine 03/17/16

Sense # 6

 

Welcome to this forum.  I will be sharing mostly process notes – notes about creative process and inspiration, and specific background info about artwork in progress.  I want to share an inquiry that includes art making but isn’t limited to that.

The art speaks for itself, so I don’t do this for the art.  I want to create conversation with others about creative process – whether you are an artist or not – so I invite comments and questions.  And if you are curious about the work and you want some background, you may find it here.  For example, I may post studio shots of work in process or research photos that give me seed ideas to explore.

Art comes out of a collective pool of shared information – I want to open up a dialog to acknowledge this in some way – so please join me!

 

 

 

 

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