Once, during an exploratory meeting with another creative type, as we were discussing a potential partnership of sorts and researching warehouses for rent, I nonchalantly pulled out a painting I had done recently on a piece of wood and handed it over in lieu of a description of my work. The painting was on a small square of 3/4'' plywood, taken from the shop I was working in, one of a million pieces of scrap used to shim up height variance in the building of platforms.
In the dry spells between busy seasons, in the industrial district of Greenpoint (Brooklyn) one could almost see the comical tumbleweeds blow past, gray-green metaphorical shadows against the acidic spray paint colors shaming the walls around me, it was like the wild west, lonely and desolate and sometimes blisteringly hot. In the blinding, scraping nothingness of boredom, my awareness to the things I was blindly stacking and re-stacking, to keep busy, to avoid censure, suddenly shifted focus and I saw music, frozen into the surfaces around me, and emotive eyes, pure poetry looking up at me out of the rich textural grain from the massive amounts of sturdy sheets of wood being tossed into the dumpster every day. Little, practically worthless bits of wood, that I smuggled a handful of home like a bandit with a bag of diamonds became resonant and full of depth, after layers of varnish and the backsides of each, supple and soft from ruthless sanding, because the world is beautiful, and we have no respect for it, like Pocahontas mistaking corn for gold, like our own bodies, strong and resonant and capable, but we move through life too full of fear to express its full power, so we forget how to see it, or what it even looks like - the shape and texture of our uniquely human motive power. Those worthless bits of refuse were like the shining pieces of my soul, that were getting whittled away from the disregard, from disrespect, from the fact that in those old movies the sheriff is always dirty, and the law is often opposite of justice. Those pieces that I salvaged, that I could take home and buff away the splinters and the lies from, barely needed a hint of paint to be sodden with purpose and a potent extension of self.
The other creative type, a carpenter with whom I was sharing this recent excavation of my soul with, could have had no idea how much that painting on that piece of wood meant to me. What it represented. So many people look at artwork face on, and it doesn't penetrate any of our other senses. The barriers of visual art keep us from reaching deeper into the craftsmanship, the meticulous care with which some of us strive to make a piece complete, and something about the remove makes me fiercely angry, because it is perpetually inaccessible. What is the point of any kind of expression, if it cannot truly breach the boundaries of perception? Why are we so afraid to touch each other, or to let ourselves be examined in return? Are we afraid of what others will see?
He took it from me, looked, appraised its visual appeal with his eyes, then rolled it around in his knowing, work-roughed hands. He flipped it over and felt the back, he looked at all sides of it, found value in it and acknowledged that as he handed it back to me. It was a moment, but it was my entire life, my soul and body's yearning to be handled and explored so specifically, respectfully as a whole, the front and the back, the hard and the soft parts. To be explored and witnessed, and accepted for what is there... by hands as sensitive and conscious as eyeballs. All the blemishes and scratches, down to the roots and the core, the structure underneath the shine, witnessed and accepted as valuable simply because I exist.
He will never know what that meant to me, and my interactions with him are random and a bit strained due to the odd consistency of life (full of lumpy weird bits)... but I learned something about myself in those few seconds, like a sudden burst of clarity. There was no emotional exchange, yet the depth of sharing from myself that was given without fear or expectation, based on my innate knowledge that the product I had created was of value... became the most intimate exchange I've ever experienced. Like a caress to my deepest principles. He would never remember that tiny moment, but I saw it, and it meant something.