Wrong Kind of Noise

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figure paintingsNoise. I talk a lot in this blog about making space for quiet, for focus, for art. This weekend I realized that there’s good noise and the then there’s the wrong kind of noise, and it’s helped me set an new intention for my work.

I live in a town with three rivers cutting through it. Mud-bottomed, cypress lined, and usually quiet, they often provide the perfect backdrop to my best thinking.

But last Saturday, when my family and I took a boat ride down the Tchefuncte and anchored at a popular spot to unwind and cool off with a swim, we were met by a whole fleet of boats, one of which had a sound system the likes of which I’ve not heard even in the most wild of nightclubs. Family outing meets a college spring break of sorts and all of a sudden, with that music blaring, having to shout to the person next to me, I couldn’t even really see those cypress trees that I’ve grown to love.

I know this is quickly devolving into a “kids today” rant that ages me more than I’d intended, so let me assure you that I understand that context changes things– had I encountered the loud music in a dance club or at a wedding, I would have dropped everything and made my way to the dance floor.

But on the river? It was all wrong. It muddied what felt a sacred space. It overtook the more subtle sounds of nature, blocking out what often calls me into a deeper awareness of my place in this swampy little piece of earth and instead transformed it into something clumsy, generic, unsettling. The people and their music seemed to instantly become the most important things on a river that contained mysteries I was too distracted to admire.

We soon pulled up the anchor and sought calmer spaces, and even though the river offered plenty, I’ve not quite been able to shake the feeling of disappointment the music left me with.

I don’t want my art to be loud in the wrong way. I want it to be the loud that is sitting on a quiet boat on a quiet river realizing that the water, the birds, the frogs, the fish jumping are filling your ears with an intensity you don’t even notice when you aren’t paying attention. The kind of loud that is witnessing a whole beautiful world that exists around you if only you make the space to look not for it but at it.

I haven’t found my way with my paintings just yet. I’m still wading in shallow waters. At the beginning of yoga class, instructors always ask you to set an intention. Last weekend I had the opportunity to think about my paintings in a new way and set a new intention for them– not just visual noise in an already beautiful world, but, hopefully, little glimpses into deeper, ever-present mysteries.

I’m eager to bring this intention into my studio time this week, adding a few more paintings to the new collection that I’ll be releasing on my site soon. If you want to be among the first to see the new paintings, make sure you’re on my mailing list

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Picture of Denise Hopkins

Denise Hopkins

July 2, 2018

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