Part 1 – The Doorway

Part 2 – Cabinet of the Muse

The piece I created after sifting through all the responses to the Artful Ways project asks you to step into a (possibly) imaginary place. This is the Muse’s home, from where she helps us to be whom we would like to be. She has here, the ingredients of all that makes us human beings; she works to create balance yet is concerned that we are in danger of ruining our home. 

The piece which is in two parts, is a reflection of the submissions made as part of the Artful Ways project. I looked for commonalities (and found plenty), and pertinent narratives that connected with the stories shared. Some objects are inspired by the words people wrote, or the ideas they communicated, some are developments from a point they made – the next step as it were. 

Ultimately the piece is about hope, journeys and joining, and imagination. 

Without an audience, the piece is simply a collection of objects. I invite others to enter, pause and think, on Creativity, Connection and Place. Ideas beget ideas – connections beget connections – place anchors us all. And I invite visitors to mark on the maps that coat the door: a walk you have taken, or a place with meaning.

A doorway is installed in the centre of a gallery, and held open. Beyond it, a cabinet is visible, with a shadow-puppet scene lit up, and there are other paintings on the wall.
Meeting Alchemy

Why did I choose a doorway?

My understanding of the project saw it to be about Place, about People, and about that mist-like fabric – the undefinable Creativity.

In Cumbria, as in the rest of the country, and indeed the rest of our brittle and soggy planet – we have been enduring a lack of what makes us human, because of the pandemic. We haven’t been able to meet, we haven’t had the impetus to make, and we haven’t been able to move. This project seemed to be about doing those things we humans do, and about pondering those things we humans do.

The pandemic has brought it home to many of us: how much we needed social contact, not screen contact, or typed contact, but real take-your-natural-turn-to-speak contact. And we needed to move. Many have realised our need for green spaces, and to be able to move through them. It was also brought home to many, that we need to make. Whether it’s bake, or create, sing or dance, write or simply respond somehow – we need to make. To bring something new into existence that has not been there before. 

Winning the commission gave me a chance to explore that further – to read how others felt about the three questions – examining ponderings on place, on the also undefinable “culture”, on “connection” and to think over our role in looking after our home the Earth, our surroundings – whether near or far, large or tiny.

I read some fabulous writing, came across food for thought, learnt some new and incredible (and terrible) things and wondered how this was going to all be “made visual”.

The Doorway as an idea for an art piece has been bubbling along for a while – as a metaphor it had been appearing in several of my poems, and it was an installation idea I had been casually exploring.

Ideas, said Sir Terry Pratchett, are sleeting down in the Universe all the time, just hoping for a receptive landing, and hoping that landing is not say, a Tree Frog without an ounce of Culture in its body. 

The doorway idea needed somewhere to land.

I have explained in the blog how the cabinet came into being – being an extension of visual ideas that were the result of poems I had been writing during this time. The door seemed to “write itself”, it summed up so much about the project – opening and closing doors, not being allowed out of doors, to being able to go outdoors again, although some are still “trapped” behind their doors. It became a metaphor for making connections with others, going through a door to meet someone, to culture being inside a door, or behind a door, to making a mental or emotional shift – to looking behind us or starting anew.

Yet the pandemic aside, a doorway or a door can stand for many things – I think it is up to the viewer to decide what the door may mean for them. What might this be?

  • A doorway is a portal 
  • It transports us from one way of being to another, 
  • It moves us through worlds.
  • It can mean Change, Transistion, remodelling, being remade,
  • Moving through a doorway is starting anew
  • Our door can be from outside to inside – away from terrible weather, or fear, or to shelter and relief.
  • Doorways can be a step to freedom, or are they? 

When we move through a real doorway, science suggests that our brains start a new “chapter” – hence we forget what we were moving through the doorway for.

Doors and doorways have their own set of idioms, one door closes, another opens; the door was closed to them; doors opened for them. Doors opening is opportunities becoming available, or being “allowed” to take part, or to join in, to be included.

Doors divide, or does a doorway join? People knock on doors, they ask for admittance, they demand entry, they beg for help. The door is a threshold between…

We can darken a door, we can beat a path to a door – a door is a place we feel the need to “arrive” at. It can be an endpoint, or a start point. A door could offer sanctuary; an open doorway is sanctuary. A door can lead to the unknown, or certainties. To hope or to dread.

We lay things at doors, we lock and bar them, sometimes we are too late in doing this. I hope we are not too late in taking the steps of action for our planet. There is the peculiarity and uncertainty of a revolving door; one that never opens or closes. Familiarity is the girl or boy who lives next door – one’s neighbour is seen as one’s near kin. Yet the wolf can be “at” the door, and we try to keep it away.

This door is where all our walks began, and where they all finished. For some, they were not able to initiate that doorway transition – it had to remain in their mind.

Which door do we choose to go through – as people, looking through the door to our planet, as it burns and floods and tears itself apart. Do we choose to go through and make the change, demand from our governments, or do we stay behind our doors, in the comfort of our homes, ignoring what is a happening outside of our doors?

Are we safe on our side of the door? Do we need to escape? Or do we shut the door – shut it all out? What would the other side look like if we could choose?

Yet, this particular door also admits you to the place where the Muse works, where her cabinet is. She has just left – for a moment. And you, the audience get a peep into her space. 

Every item, every choice, every word has meaning. I would hope that for those who submitted their walks and thoughts, they will find connections here between their words and these objects – and for everyone else, I hope you find echoes, reflections and resonances on Creativity, People and Place.

Legend of works 

(To be added to)

The Rain Paintings

These were made in the rain, and are a backdrop or wallpaper for the Cabinet. A reminder of the importance of our weather systems, that are becoming increasingly in crisis – here the rain is “worked with”, to make the “wallpaper”.

The Balance of All Things

Here the Muse has the difficult daily task of balancing certain the ease against one another, in order for Cradtivity and Culture to happen, how does she balance Baggage against Luggage, or Quality and Quantity, or Journeying against Arrival? Bravery against Intent, or a Belonging against Not Belonging?

An old weighing scale with pale blue weights piled beside it.

The Shelf of Ingredients

All bottled, all looking empty, she will make a Tincture for Creativeness using these ingredients. They all have corks – except one.

The C-Art horses.

A nod to Cumbrians super visual county-wide art festival and open studios. I painted the black logo one year on our palomino (golden) pony Nina – she became a poster girl. The following year, our black Friesian Samson became the poster boy.

The World On/Off Switch

Don’t touch? Or is the world already “off”? It’s as though the Muse has the power to turn it off if we refuse to mend and look after it. 

The WalkScape Jewellery Collection

The mUse makes jewellery that is in the shape of your walk (they were “taken” from the digital map) – these walks may change many things, but she doesn’t want people to feel that their “job is done”, neither does she think that we should “expect” rewards or revelations as a result of maybe the incremental changes we might have made, after all, we forge our own path. We humans, are the agents of change.

Two silver earrings made in the shape of tracks of walks, held in a box.

The Recipe Cards

Made on old map covers, these recipes are (slightly tongue in cheek) for different aspects of creative endeavour. They are all written, although they aren’t all “viewable” on the piece. A reference to the joy of our creative world, and the struggles that we may find within being part of that.

The Keys to Unlocking

There was a worried air to people’s thoughts on our environment and how the “big players” are ignoring the damage that is being wrought upon our planet. This is being ignored at our peril. These keys are our hope.

The Signposts

Different destinations, being pointed out – each signpost has two destinations on it. Some you may not be able, to see. The muse may use them to help those who feel lost, feeling lost often being a state of mind, as well as a state of place. Mental and emotional health being a strong theme of connection in the project, and the acts of creativity.

The Stars – The Seven Seas  – The Continents

Is the Muse tidying away the world? Note, on the seas-maps there is much land painted over with “sea”.

Duck Egg Blue

The colour is the colour of light, and the colour of water on our maps. Without either, we are in trouble. Both hold us all together.

Words on the Maps of the Doorway

These are taken from people’s writings, their musings, and the commonalities therein. Some are specific “lifts”, others are shared themes. People said much that was familiar and similar, whilst being individual and discrete. Some place names are changed, some new ones are suggested, some are markers, others are namechecks. I hope people add to the maps. To connect through the maps, the doors and the walks – this piece brings all those activities full circle. Where might you like to go? What should be highlighted? How wonderful for example, that a curve of a hill has a name. It will have been conjured some time, by someone, for some reason. Let’s make some more. Let’s connect through time.

The Thin-ness of Time Shadow Puppet Theatre

This references us coming together, at last, greeting each other – it is Dorothy Wordsworth meeting a modern day walker, passing through place and time, after all, it is only the thin-ness of time that separates us. We breathe the the same air, the same water runs through our veins, the same stones are under our feet. 

When we sing, write, draw, or dance; when we make our marks, as did she, it is doing so, that makes us human.

Two figures are seen as shadows, reaching their hands out to one another behind a curtain; the text in front of the figures reads '...only separated by the thin-ness of time ... '