In the studio

That “Third Thing” In Between

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I recently took a vacation from all work, including painting. I camped, watched light and shadow dance on the leaves of trees, and read a very thick book to completion. All the while I felt a gnawing underbelly of pressure. 

Guilt, things I could and should be doing for life and an awareness of needing empty spaces inside to recharge. I was torn between two ways of being. Often we are caught between two things, writes Natalie Goldberg in her book, The True Secret of Writing. Pulled into a fray of right or wrong—should I do this, should I do that?—Natalie says that within a struggle, a third thing can be birthed, fueled by the extremes and fertilized into something that is unique to you and very real.

The Third Thing

I have experienced this very real phenomenon in the act of making an abstract painting. We don’t think our way to resolution, we find the space between. I’m not trying to “make“ it into anything, but I am wanting my emotions to lead the way. It’s a form of getting to the truth, our own truth.

I have found existentialist writer John Graham to be a wonderful resource in describing just those spaces in proclaiming what is art is in his manifesto from 1939 titled, Systems and Dialectics of Art.

He claims that the purpose of art is to re-establish relationship with the unconscious. He states that the “conscious mind is incapable of creating; and is only a clearing house for the powers of the unconscious and the best way to our unconscious is through our emotions.”

For me, I work with shadows, externally and internally. If I linger and not squint too hard, the shadows might come into focus or dissipate altogether.

John Graham has left me with questions. For instance, I usually talk about abstract works of art as creating movement that moves the eye just so. He makes a different statement claiming:

“A great work of art is always static. A dynamic state is the natural state of things and there is no accomplishment in falling in with eternal motion, the heroic feat is to arrest motion by stupendous effort  and to contemplate. An abstract painting is an argument drawn to a conclusion.”

Contemplation, a calm in a storm, the static within movement, all in search of our unique point of view.

Thank you for reading,

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Sunday - July 14th
One Day Only Collectors Sale- 11:00 - 5:00 pm

A variety of small and large pieces will be made available at studio prices for purchase. I will give a talk at 2:00 pm.

September 26 & 27 in Santa Fe
I am teaching The Space Between Painting and Intuition with Stacy Philips. Just a few spots left!

C O N F I D E N C E

Vernal Passage I mixed media on panel, 48” x 40”, Friesen Gallery

Vernal Passage I mixed media on panel, 48” x 40”, Friesen Gallery

When I was seven, we lived in the tropics of Miami, Florida. Our backyard had a large sprawling lawn that butted up against a canal that I was sure was full of people eating alligators. I was terrified.


In the winters my grandparents would escape the New England cold of Rhode Island for the sunshine state. My grandfather was a retired physical education teacher and I was a budding gymnast.

Our green grassed backyard was the perfect place to saunter my cartwheels and practice my moves.

I took to hanging upside down and sideways quite easily, but when it came to the idea of springboarding and twisting my body backwards into the air, you might as well have thrown me into the canal with the alligators. It was the same kind of hand-sweating heart-racing fear.

In the late afternoons in plaid Bermuda shorts, white tee shirt, and baseball cap, my grandfather would set up his green plastic lawn chair on the back patio. Sitting, cane twisting in his gnarled fingers, he would wave his cane like a baton and conduct my performance. But mostly what I remember of him are his words of encouragement to boost my morale.


He would say, “Now what’s the word?” I remembered it was very long and began with a capital C. He would then slowly say, “C-O-N-F-I-D-E-N-C-E.”  It’s just a word, but my brain was distracted just long enough to do the thing I feared. This word has surfaced many times in my life since then when faced with the fear of "I can't."


Recently, I was asked to speak in front of an audience of 120 on the creative process. I was hand-sweating heart-racing terrified. Yes, I teach in front of people, but speaking to a large audience seemed much more daunting. While telling a friend,  “I can’t do it,” she mentioned that the quickest way to move into the natural flow of our lives is to do something just beyond what we think we can do, which reminded me of what I learned from my grandfather at seven. Confidence might just be a word, but changing “I can’t" to “I can” is a powerful cognitive shift which can trick us out of our comfort zones, so we can be terrified and do it anyway.

I survived standing in front of a crowd in the end and realized I actually enjoyed it. A new flow to approach in the future with added confidence.

The exhibit Stewards of Light is still up in Ketchum, Idaho. View the exhibit here

Paint Big and More: Anything Goes  May 2 - 5 at Mantecón Studio, Santa Fe, NM (1 space left!)

Open Studio Sale July 14 from 1 - 6 pm (2:00 pm art talk)
A variety of large and small pieces will be made available for purchase at studio prices.

Wrangling Paint + More  July 18 - 20 at Mantecón Studio

The Space Between Painting and Intuition September 26 - 28 at Mantecón Studio, Santa Fe, NM with Lauren Mantecón and Stacy Phillips  

Big-Small-Big: Approaches to Mixed Media Painting June 24 - 28 in Cullowhee, North Carolina

The Alchemy of Mixed Media October 12 - 13 at Weehawken Art Center in Ridgeway, Colorado

Paint Big: Abstract Expressionism October 31 - November 1 at Mantecón Studio in Santa Fe, NM with Lauren Mantecón

Ongoing Wednesday Open Studio from 1:30 pm to 4:30 pm at Mantecón Studio in Santa Fe, NM

Virtual Studio Mentorships Buy a series of personalized sessions 
catered to your own individuals goals. This could be setting up accountability 
schedule, critique of work, writing statements, researching ways to get your work out into the world.