Art as Experience part 2

Click HERE to read part 1.

Mary Monk, Billy Solitario, and me

Mary Monk, Billy Solitario, and me


A storm which was not forecast came in with a fury that evening.  That, mixed with some biting gnats which snuck into my tent made for a long and restless night.  Looking out the window of my tent I could see lightning flash all around and Mary standing in her tent, holding up the sides so that it didn't collapse on her in the high winds. 

The storm had slacked the next morning with a little rain continuing.  A clearing of the clouds gave us a false hope of being able to stay on the island, so after a quick breakfast the paints came back out.  Actually, I believe that I was the only one to pull the paints out.  The other two were much more realistic about the situation.  Billy was looking at the radar and saw that we were in for more trouble.  He phoned the boat captain to come and pick us up, and we started packing up our gear.

It is really remarkable to witness how quickly storms form out in the gulf.  The winds picked back up as the sky darkened.  My tent became tumbleweed, rolling across the island.  I chased it down, while sand hit us like thousands of tiny bullets.  Collapsing a tent in such high winds is very difficult.  When I got back to camp with the tent Billy let me know that the boat would not be able to get us in this weather.  We were going to have to ride it out.  We were stranded.  My two man tent was put back up to become a storm shelter for three.  Our gear would just have to remain on the beach. 

I'm not sure how long we were huddled in that tent before the storm broke.  Having not slept much the night before we napped a bit.  The vulnerability of the situation was humbling as lightning struck remarkably close to us.  It didn't feel dangerous so much as it made me feel very small.  

We made it home alive of course.  Two of the three paintings I did survived.  It was certainly an experience, which may or may not come through in those two paintings. 

It was a great experience and I'm sure I'll go back, but this in no way makes me a connected and experienced Horn Island painter.  And I don't want to be.  John Dewey later says in his book "...any authentic artist will avoid material that has previously been aesthetically exploited to the full and will seek out material in which his capacity for individual vision and rendering can have free play."  That little piece of land out in the gulf was claimed by Walter Anderson in such a dramatically intimate way that the rest of us who paint there are paying homage to him as much as the landscape.  He fully connected with that place through his work.  And now I'm on a journey to find my Horn Island, which doesn't have to be an island at all, or even a piece of land.  My Horn Island will be that which tugs at me constantly, that which is my unique life, that which helps art become a daily experience.

Jerrod Partridge