One recent morning, I woke at 4:30. I am an early riser, but not this early. My body was fatigued, my eyes groggy, yet my mind decides it’s time to turn on. This morning I don’t resist. I get out of bed and go make coffee to take out to the studio. Usually I journal, or read. This early morning, perhaps because my noisy mind was not awake enough to resist, I pulled a roll of paper down from the shelf, and laid it out on the floor of my studio. I began walking back and forth across it, making a kind of line on the surface. When the tread on my shoes no longer left marks, I walked out into the yard right outside the double-doors of my studio, tramped around in the dewy grass for a moment, then back in the doors and across the paper. Over and over I did this, back and forth across the page, out into the cold dark morning to “recharge” the shoes, and back onto the paper. Like a mix of Richard Long’s walking in the meadow (without his sharp conceptual backbone), and Bruce Nauman doing his silly walks in the studio (without his gracefulness).
Having become satisfied by the shoe imprints across the paper, I spent the next month drawing with soft graphite in the areas around the tread – paying attention and being careful to not draw “outside the lines” of the scuffs and dirt marks. A larger collective line emerged from the thin negative spaces of the treads. Then I worked the areas around this larger line, responding somewhat aesthetically – I first filled the whole area above and below with graphite, then tried erasing down to a circle (which didn’t work), then down to the gradient which you see on the page.
Other than that, I don’t know what it means. I don’t think it does “mean”. It just is.
In the parameters in which the drawing is made, I submit to what is. To stop speaking, and listen to silence, and space, and everything within that silent space. To simply be.
The drawing sometimes reveals its insights to me, and I work to respond appropriately.
What dragged my body out of bed that morning is beyond me, yet within me. The drawing is an illumination of an ordinary moment – a transcendent experience of waking up too early and walking back and forth between the inside and outside of the studio, across a piece of paper.
I am the poet of reality
I say the earth is not an echo
Nor man an apparition;
But that all things seen are real,
The witness and albic dawn of things equally real
I have split the earth and the hard coal and rocks and the solid bed of the sea
And went down to reconnoitre there a long time,
And bring back a report,
And I understand that those are positive and dense every one
And that what they seem to the child they are
[And that the world is not a joke,
Nor any part of it a sham].
— Walt Whitman