Saturday, April 6, 2013

"Growing" a Collaboration, thoughts from Donna Caulton

It was December 6, 2012. The winter should have been fully formed; ground covered with snow, car barely willing to start. Instead it was still nearly 60 degrees. Even the nights had not yet succumbed to freezing temperatures more common to the season.

As I walked to my car I was struck by a beautiful but unnatural sight. My lilac tree, still less than six feet tall, was budding out. Leaf buds were plump and ready to pop for the second time that year.

I thought so much about the unnatural nature of this occurrence and how it is reflective of greater changes in the local and world environments. On my long drive that day, other thoughts floated into consciousness and were soon intermingled, in my mind, with the lilac leaf buds.  I was thinking about our Creation/Migration collaboration and what a precious "growing" thing it has become: something to be treasured and protected.

 Like the lilac tree, the project has begun from seed and is still in process of sinking roots.  Like the lilac tree, there are multiple individuals coming from the same root structure, taking nourishment from the same metaphoric soil, air and water, but still retaining individuality in the multiple trunks that shoot from that common root stock.

The four artists involved in our collaboration did not "join a project". Instead, we found one another through the language of our work, and we grew together, feeding from common earth and spirit, into one multi-branched whole.

Our natures branch out with ideas so readily we can hardly contain ourselves at times. In the same way a tree's branches appear different one to the other, we bring diverse viewpoints and perspectives  to the wholeness of the project. But the sap, the spiritual food, flows from the same earth-born river of knowledge and soul.

From a very practical standpoint we are all well grounded and comfortable in our artist skins and with our down to earth practical natures as well.  Each of us has vastly different life experiences and therefore different skills.  Without ever deciding who does what, we simply put ourselves to work. If one of us forgets something, another remembers. If one knows better how to get certain things done, the rest take up other tasks.  It is all just as natural as a growing tree.

So what about those unnatural leaf buds? Those are the product of premature growth.  They are cracks in the cosmic egg, premature ventricular contractions, off-key voices in a choir with perfect pitch.  They disrupt the balance.

When someone asks to join our collaboration, it is frequently someone whose opinions and artwork we respect. In refusing we intend no slight.  We simply have a deep understanding of the natural flow that brought us together as well as the nourishment and respect that has glued us together.  It is a  rare gift to find this.  A premature "bud" on our branches can upset the balance from that time forward.  It is only with great care and thoughtfulness that we would ever consider new growth.

The Creation Migration project is compelling.  There is a great deal of interest, at this time,  in individual and collective consciousnesses of artists around the ideas of family, ancestry, migration, and creating works from that deep reservoir.  When the time is right, and when we find just the right match, we will likely add members to the collaboration.  And when that times come, it will be a springtime of growth, not an unnatural moment. That person (or those persons) will brings new skills, collaborative natures, willingness to work, organize and create for themselves and for the well-being of the group.

All the above characteristics are important to have in a collaborative project; a project without leaders and followers, but with strong cooperative personalities. We did not know for certain, when we started working together, that it would all fall into place so well; that we would coalesce into a true working collaboration.  We had "good feelings" about one another, and we were "lucky".  I believe, though, that the key to it all was being able to recognize the commonalities we shared in the heart and depths of our artwork.