The Birches of Maine, pastel, 10 x 8", 2008
I have a confession- I am a gym rat. Most days likely find me at the gym for an hour. Today was my friend Kim teaching Body Flow. For the uninitiated, it's sort of a combination of Yoga-lite and Tai Chi done in a darkly lit room to music. Kim, frighteningly buff, performs a choreographed series of moves to music from a spotlighted stage. The rest of the class follows her moves as best we can. It is hard as hell. Surprisingly it is also very beautiful.
One moves slowly from one bending or twisting pose to another while trying your best not to topple over. And you push each move just a bit to make the gestures crisp, flowing, and the extensions of the limbs sharp and stated. As the class progresses, your senses gradually wake up. Balance, gravity, and forceful yet delicate movement become amazingly tangible. It reminds me ever so much of what I do when I'm painting- making clear, stated gestures with the hand that holds the brush. The brushstrokes of pigment are just footprints in the snow each gesture leaves behind.
Artists are people who learn to express the issues and emotions of life through images. They call up sensations in their viewers of rising, falling, expanding, contracting, stability, precariousness... Visual artists do this through endless practice with their oil paints or pastels. Kim, up on the stage teaching Body Flow dispenses with the paintbrushes and instead uses the whole body to convey these polished and perfected moves. Painting, Body Flow, there's a real elegance to both.
My pastel drawing The Birches of Maine illustrated above is a good image to accompany this post. While I was drawing it I was thinking about the amazing dance a bending birch tree has to master just to stand erect. And in no time my thought drifted back to my last Body Flow class.
Maybe they should teach it in art school.