31 January 2008
Printing With Feeling
First pass with the second state block
During the weeks I worked on the Bethlehem print, my emotional state was mostly calm and meditative. I listened to Orthodox and seasonal Christian music while carving and printing, and the swirls in the landscape I was printing felt watery and soothing.
The Mecca print has had a different feeling for me, no doubt because I'm not as comfortable with Islam as I am with Christianity, and finding out that only Muslims can visit Mecca has exacerbated my conflicted feelings. In terms of artistic process, though, I'm starting to find this emotional state very interesting. In the long run I expect these feelings will become an integrated part of the work and I'm now curious to see how that evolves, how the work becomes different from my first vision of it even as I follow the "plan" (and a print like this has to have a plan).
I've wanted to take the time working on this print as an opportunity to learn about Islam, so as I work I've been listening to various podcasts about Islam-related topics (the poet Rumi, history of the Ottoman Empire, current conflicts in the Middle East). A collection of podcasts that I've really enjoyed is NPR's "Speaking of Faith." One interview with Yossi Klein Halevi, an Israeli journalist, examined the religious dimensions of life and war in the holy land. In that interview, Halevi spoke some words that resonate with me:
"I insist on revering Islam and its fearless heart. The fanatics will not deprive me of that victory."
I feel that way right now about this print. I insist on respecting this religion that I do not understand. I insist on finding our common ground, our common humanity. I feel a certain defiance in working on this print right now. Defiance is interesting energy to make art with.