While in the midst of collective anxiety and the narrowing of our daily activities triggered by the global pandemic, I found comfort in the imagery of lepidoptera, that evolve during periods of cocooned gestation and slowly transform. As they emerge, at first their wings are still damp and crumpled and then in the right conditions, they begin to unfold and expand patterned anew.
I began the cut paper works “cocooning and metamorphosis” based on my drawings of butterflies and moths. The few pieces I did at first to still my mind evolved into a whole installation.
My hope for this strange time was that as we shifted from our hurried orbits that we might sit in the quiet and learn from it. In a largely extroverted world I felt that we might learn more about introversion and introspection as a source of strength and solace.
I came across a poem written over a hundred years ago by Grace Ramsay (née Kathleen O’Meara). While published in 1869, its message is still so pertinent and seemed to describe the particular moment we were experiencing.
And people stayed at home
And read books and listened
And rested and did exercises
And made art and played
And new ways of being
And then they stopped.
And listened deeper
Someone was praying
Someone was dancing
Someone met their own shadow
And people started thinking differently.
And people healed.
And in the absence of people who lived
In ignorant ways
Senseless and heartless,
The earth also began to heal.
The line “And listened deeper” resonates powerfully as it points to what we might find from deep listening.
The “cocooning and metamorphosis” works are hand screen prints of my drawings using small batch plant based ink. Day by day, the simple repeated action of hand screen printing and hand cutting this tactile and seemingly delicate, yet strong and resilient Japanese kozo paper offered a hopeful focus. Like repeating a mantra to stabilize and uplift the mind, this work said never lose hope. There is a time for quiet, restful awareness and there is a time for new ways of moving in the world.
I think also of a passage from Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis that I read over and over on a photocopy that was posted up on my sister’s cork board throughout my teens. Kazantzakis’ visceral and poignant description with its call to respect natural cycles is forever etched into my mind. Our relationship with ourselves, with each other, with nature, with the past and with the future is ultimately inseparable. Deep listening is central to our mutual healing and thriving.
“cocooning & metamorphosis” photo credit: Lauren Kolyn