Creating on the Edge
Dreamwalkers, I’m excited to share my recent Creative Conversation with artist and writer
Margaret Kellermann about doing art through this edgy time. How do we do it? Why do we do it? How many of you Dreamwalkers are asking this now as the world is changing underfoot each moment? Whether you’re moving forward, wandering around a creative crossroads, or standing on the edge of the cliff, I hope this talk supports your creative courage.
Janet: Hey, Margaret. I’m here with a big cup of mint tea. The clouds have moved over to make room for some sun. So good to meet up with you today.
Margaret: Hi again, Janet. I’m done with my coffee and have moved on to a bagel with everything! Our weather here today is springlike. As my son J.B. said when he was three, “It’s day all day. It’s blue and sun.” Thanks so much for continuing to host Creative Conversations during the pandemic. You’re keeping up our spirits with essential art talk.
Janet: Thanks, Margaret. These conversations energize me as well, so it’s sheer gift. We recently talked about what we called Creating on the Edge after I found this quote on your blog:
For me there’s no gallery where art is sold, no art nights where art is shared, no artist
companions on the headlands. This time it’s just the canvas and me and the heartstopping drop to the sea.
I loved these lines and wanted to explore them more with you, Margaret. (To read more of the post, click here and scroll down to see blog post titled “Healing.”)
Margaret: Yes, that came from a feeling the other day that I — along with the rest of the known world — would like to say that I am done with this pandemic. Just done! Finished. The past year was interesting for a while for introverts like us. We didn’t need to invent excuses why we couldn’t attend parties. We could make art alone and read alone. We were okay for a while. But with a second spring coming on, it just seems to me this era of solitary confinement should stop. Are you feeling it, too, Janet?
Janet: I think I’ve drifted farther out to sea when I wasn’t looking. Like you, I didn’t mind (let’s face it, I relished in) more solitary time. But what I’m missing is the thing you mentioned in your line, “artist companions on the headlands.” We are masked, distanced, and left to our devices for contact. Still, since you’re in California and I’m in Washington, I’m glad for our calls, zooms, and Dreamwalks that give us room to share the twisty sometimes treacherous path of creativity.
With you, I’ve seen something I’ve seen in other creatives. As the path of one art stops at the edge of a chasm — as with the painting quote above — you leap over the chasm to work on other art forms, like your writing. I love this artistic agility and your ongoing curiosity.
It seems to me this is an important time to witness where creativity goes when doors are closed.
Margaret: So true, Janet. As an artist who is a Christian, I’m often thinking about whether my experience is echoed somewhere in the Old or New Testaments. This morning on my walk through a field, looking up at the clouds glowing gold with sunrise, I thought about a passage in the Book of Job where it says God’s skill paints every cloud. How can God paint every cloud? Isn’t that time consuming? Lots of times people don’t even see that kind of work. What’s the point?
Margaret (continuing): Well, recently, a Karuk elder told us in a workshop on Native culture that the Karuk people have had to suspend their celebrations all year. This is doubly hard because the main reason for getting together for celebrations is for the healing of the world. The world could use some healing. The Karuk people still use the arts in their
celebrations because, the elder said, “Art is part of the healing of the world.” That sentence hit me like a good gut punch.
Janet: Yes. I love “Art is a part of the healing of the world.” So much. This recognizes the
creative nature at its essence.
I cracked up at “Isn’t it time consuming?” Also, your point about lots of people not even seeing that kind of work touched on something that I wondered about recently. I awoke to birdsong the other morning and thought — the bird sings because that’s who she is. At the same moment, I thought, I tell stories because that’s who I am. So even during this time of slower work, rejection, and other cliffhangers, I will tell the stories that come. The “Why bother?” comes in when I start thinking about the audience. Asking who will hear it? But the cloud-painter and songbird don’t bother with that. Do I want to tell stories to the wind? I’ll get back to you on that.
Margaret: I actually feel like I’m on the edge of a cliff right now! The wind in my face, the rocks to the sea below. If you haven’t seen Andy Goldsworthy’s documentary “Leaning Into the Wind” about Andy wanting his art to come just to the point of collapse but not breaking, it’s worth it just to see the last minutes, where he’s standing on a cliff edge, letting only the wind hold him up. Readers be advised: I don’t suggest this type of behavior. But when I saw it, something felt so electric, I jumped in my seat.
Janet: I’ve got to see that! In my novel-in-progress “Ophelia Drowning,” Ophelia follows the
storms up to the edge of the cliff in her town of Scour:
In Scour, she’d fought the gusts and pelting rain up to the edge of the dark cliff, going as far out as she dared to get closer to the storm’s power, she’d scream sounds she could not release in town, though there were times when music came close to the edge of it.
My characters are braver than I am. Do I have the courage right now to celebrate the EDGE?
Margaret: O Amazing Ophelia. I’m on edge waiting for that book to come out.
Janet: Thanks, Margaret. Maybe there is something to following the storms right to the edge, going into the wind the way Andy Goldsworthy does. Even in these times of “no gallery where art is sold,” I was thrilled to hear you recently sold two paintings to people who saw and loved your work.
Margaret: I was more surprised than anyone since these are two of my biggest paintings. Each are a yard wide. You can’t ignore them. They are in your face as you walk in a room. Like actual windows to the outside world. After selling the second painting the other day, I considered that I could forego the small and medium paintings for a while as I’m standing here on the cliff edge… and just be brave and GO BIG.
Find examples of Margaret’s artwork on her Website
Janet: Thanks for coming out to the edge with us, Dreamwalkers.