31 January 2008

Printing With Feeling

Impression4
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.

7 comments:

Beth Zentzis said...

I commend you for recognizing the energy that is present as you work on this print, and I have no doubt you'll learn a lot about the depth of the meaning of that energy, which will in turn effect what you communicate through the print. You are being very brave.

Anita Thomhave Simonsen said...

Very interesting to read about your feelings and your experience with this piece of work....You have the right intentions in the way you go to work with this piece...and I could imagine that I would find it a bit difficult too because it´s an unknown religion for me too.....and i´m also sure that your struggling with this piece and trying to understand what this religion is about og most noteworthy the thoughts about where we can meet each other....will show up in the energy this piece will send.....and I appreciate the way you work with it..a lot....

From Anita In Denmark

tom said...

Islam has much in common with Judaism and Christianity, apart from sharing scriptures, each has a long list of prohibitions and exclusions. Is the control of tourists through Mecca more upsetting than other prescriptions in other religions? Consider the persecution of homosexuals or the exclusion of women from the clergy in the Christian church. Consider the missionary extermination of indigenous culture across the globe. Consider the forced indoctrination of children. Consider the invasion of territory. Why be squeamish about acknowledging that Faith demands barriers?

Annie B said...

Thanks Beth & Anita.

Tom, all of those things you list (persecution of homosexuals, extermination of indiginous cultures, etc) indeed make me squeamish. Religion makes me squeamish. What particularly upset me in discovering that Mecca is closed to non-Muslims is the fact that I am now knowingly trespassing -- I am a non-Muslim literally entering the forbidden city of Mecca. That sudden shift from curious artist to illegal alien / interloper threw me a bit.

But I'll get over it :)

Tom Kristensen said...

I am happy to make transgressions into issues of Christian faith because it is the culture in which I live. It feels like I am in a dialogue of a sort. I guess that making comment on an alien culture is indeed a risky proposition. You would know that it is now unwise to depict Allah, although this has not always been the case. It is unlikely that you have committed major blasphemy as per the Danish cartoonists, but cartographers have been known to stir up trouble. Keep up the good work

Amanda said...

I am way behind in visiting blogs but i know you will understand...tracking back through your posts about this print is fascinating. Your respect ,genuine interest and openness will surely prevent any offence being taken, if in fact there is any to be taken. The later layers draw me in and are so like landscapes - looking at the work so far evokes a meditative serenity in me. And although you haven't printed it yet, isn't the border you plan remarkably apt, given the way non-Muslims are barred from enterring Mecca and all this symbolises....if only we could find a way through...

Annie B said...

Great to see you Amanda! Hope your show is going well. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.