Art in the Dark

Today I was sure that I’d finally entered a dystopian novel penned by Bradbury or Atwood.

There had been hints that something fishy was going on.

First the tornadoes that flattened sections of Nashville a few months ago.

Quickly followed by Covid-19 and quarantine and the new normal of walking around in masks.

That was almost enough.

Yesterday Nashville got hit with severe storms and 130,000 people lost power. Amidst candles and grilling meat to save it from the defrosting freezer, I pondered how to heat a heating pad without electricity. When the power outage continued this morning, my daughter drove around looking for a place to take her online college exams (exams that had been moved online because of Covid-19) since our internet was down. Due to the pandemic, all of the normal indoor wi-fi spots were closed. While she ran around, the rest of us took turns sitting in our cars to charge our phones so that we had a flashlight to go to the bathroom in the dark (no windows in our bathrooms). The word on the street was that this was Nashville’s worst outage in the town’s history and it could be one to two weeks before the power came back on again.

I do recognize that the above problems reveal our utter dependency on technology, but it was all finally feeling too weird and too hard.

I sent our youngest out to distantly play with friends down the street and half-heartedly began working on the art assignment for my online class.

I enjoy making art that has plenty of layers and it’s interesting to me that the process feels similar to that of navigating the dark. As Carla Sonheim says,

“Art-making is always a surprise.”

Many times while working on this piece I felt unsure as I layered a color and cringed at the result. In those moments, continuing on meant trusting myself that I could find my way toward something cohesive in the end. Or alternatively, throw it away, if it didn’t work out. The latter mindset helps ease the pressure and makes the whole process feel a bit less “precious”.

Five hours later, with every art supply in the house scattered across the table, my mental chaos finally moved into peaceful order.

That happens sometimes when making art.

(Sometimes it doesn’t.)

Okay, also the power came back on, and that MIGHT have had something to do with the celebratory feeling that we were not yet in the throes of the apocalypse.

But I’d like to think it was 90% because of the art.