The summer months of July and August slip into a kind of heated listlessness that mingles with the soft droning of insects. Major shows have passed or are in progress. The euphoria or depression that arrived with acceptance or rejection melts into a decided lack of energy. Thinking of the nautical meaning for the Doldrums, the experience can be transient in nature, hard to predict, but capable of leaving an artist caught in the becalmed water of inertia.
The modern day sailor will tell you the Doldrums are caused by the sun heating the air around the equator and causing it to rise straight up. The result is hot or cold - little or no horizontal wind and ocean current, or the threat of potential hurricanes. 18th century sailors feared the Doldrums because the unpredictability of the weather could prevent all progress for weeks on end. It was not then, nor is now, a place sailors wish to be when wind is their only means of propulsion.
The artist can relate, when she enters the studio after months of ambitious work only to look around at the stacked paintings and empty calendar. When the goals so eagerly set feel like distant, teasing clouds at the edge of the weather. In the heat of August it is easy to feel the disconnect between desire and energy, purpose or meaning, when the lapping of becalmed water lulls you into a listless drifting, fingers trailing, sending ripples of inconsequence across the glassy ocean’s surface.
Does it feel somewhat empty? And yet seductively comforting? To be letting go of some of the urgency of purpose but not really, not yet, giving up on the need? Perhaps this listless drifting is the beginning of doubt, out of which we must struggle to find faith. But struggle we must. To find and reconnect to what it is we want – when all we have is wind as our propulsion.
What is it that drives you, breaking your heart when you can’t find it but making up for everything when you do?
For me it is the memory of standing in a hot stuffy space so completely enthralled by a Titian painting that I still recall the sensation, realizing how art has the power to reach out across centuries and connect with another human experience.
I hang on to that sensation when I am in the Doldrums.
It is the source of the wind that slowly, softly, begins to lift the sails.
What do you hang on to?