Borrowing lines

Painting while listening to virtual programs on Zoom, Crowdcast, Vimeo, Coursera and other platforms has given me a new appreciation for those students who sketch and doodle in my classes. I’m not sure if my topics ever influence their artwork, but I know I find interweavings in my experiences of observing sound while engaged in visual, meditative painting.

A listening ear, licked into shape by the sea

from poetry reading by Billie Chernicoff on the lawn at Desmond-Fish Library, Garrison, New York, 21 August 2021

Which makes me wonder how much borrowing really goes on in my creative process. I like observing these influences and arcs and patterns and obsessions in other artists, as when I write reviews or lectures, and I especially like reading other scholars’ analyses. But it’s much harder to excavate my own work.

By the way, I use “borrowing” to describe this process because it is a type of exchange that leaves things undamaged by use. My project today involved interpreting an 18th-century folio painting of a ragini, a personified musical mode. This Indian painting is itself a departure from the usual iconography, and borrows from descriptions and poems about this musical form. Because I was listening to poets while sketching the composition, I let the trees and lotuses be the musical mode all on their own.

“The musical mode Gauri” folio from a Ragamala series. Pahari, ca. 1770

My friend Mary Newell read from her newest chapbook Re-SURGE from Trainwreck Press, and I know it was her ecopoetic themes that de-centered the composition onto the pond, so rapturous with lotuses amid conversing trees. Here, the garden-like setting drowns out personification in favor of emptiness, and a drowning presence of sounds from the trees and flowers covers the surface. Imagine a black swallowtail butterfly and several knowing dragonflies, and you’d almost know.

almost is a long way from drowning

from reading by Mary Newell on the lawn at Desmond-Fish Library, Garrison, New York, 21 August 2021

I’m watching a dark-gray sky signal the approach of Tropical Storm Henri here in the lower Hudson valley. Surge and torrents… hopefully we are attentive and well prepared for nature as she is.

2 thoughts on “Borrowing lines

  1. Anu: Thanks for this! I love the visual interactions. My chapbook, Re-SURGE is available from, under $10 with postage. Mary Newell

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