Sandra-Lee Phipps statement

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Lesson in Survival

Buried memories do strange things to confidence and creativity. The energy spent in survival mode darkens the palette, clouds vision. To counterbalance the weight of a season of heavy news and challenging life events, I began a personal project that evolved to be a study of light and the body. This work represents a challenge to the darkness of past experiences, buried thoughts.

These women, these bodies, survive- engaged in acts of both stillness and inner movement surrounded by botanicals that equally support and nourish. The body is fractured, reflected yet solid.

The sensual female body – in nature, in or near water. Water – essential source – transforms, heals.

When you find yourself far out at sea, away from shore,
In floating you stop expending the energy of struggle.
You are just there- accepting the weight and roots of all that is.

This work represents two converging bodies of work that are inspired by the female voice of two artists: Edna St. Vincent Millay and Joni Mitchell – artists who through words address the struggle of even making the work, being heard, the cost of liberating your time and energy to the creative impulse in the patriarchal system.

Her Name is Vincent -Guided by the feminist poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay- many of the images were created in and around her inspired landscape of mid coast Maine. Responding to prompts from Millay’s poems to the visceral landscape where harsh seasons bear sweet fruit- I traded the textual language of poems with the visual language of light. The making of Lumen prints- juicy objects put to paper, the work of the hand, the sun creating it all – was a healing process in a time of rough waters.

Lesson in Survival -Joni Mitchell’s words brought hope in a time of despair. Her confessional challenge to a woman’s place in the creative world, the truth of incompatibility, the cost of it all on the psyche gave me a map of strength through the creative process.

Lesson in Survival

Spinning out on turns
That gets you tough
Guru books-the Bible
Only a reminder
That you’re just not good enough
You need to believe in something
Once I could in our love
Black road
Double yellow line
Friends and kin
Campers in the kitchen
That’s fine sometimes
But I know my needs
My sweet tumbleweed
I need more quiet times
By a river flowing
You and me
Deep kisses
And the sun going down
Maybe it’s paranoia
Maybe it’s sensitivity
Your friends protect you
Scrutinize me
I get so damn timid
Not at all the spirit
That’s inside of me
Oh baby I can’t seem to make it
With you socially
There’s this reef around me
I’m looking way out at the ocean
Love to see that green water in motion
I’m gonna get a boat
And we can row it
If you ever get the notion
To be needed by me
Fresh salmon frying
And the tide rolling in
I went to see a friend tonight
Was very late when I walked in
My talking as it rambled
Revealed suspicious reasoning
The visit seemed to darken him
I came in as bright
As a neon light
And I burned out
Right there before him
I told him these things
I’m telling you now
Watched them buckle up
In his brow
When you dig down deep
You lose good sleep
And it makes you
Heavy company
I will always love you
Hands alike
Magnet and iron
The souls

Songwriter: Joni Mitchell
Lesson in Survival lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Crazy Crow Music / Siquomb Music Publishing

Hearing your words, and not a word among them
Tuned to my liking, on a salty day
When inland woods were pushed by winds that flung them
Hissing to leeward like a ton of spray,
I thought how off Matinicus the tide
Came pounding in, came running though the Gut,
While from the Rock the warning whistle cried,
And children whimpered and the doors blew shut;
There in the autumn when the men go forth,
With slapping skirts the island women stand
In gardens stripped and scattered, peering north,
With dahlia tubers dripping from the hand:
The wind of their endurance, driving south,
Flattened your words against your speaking mouth.

Hearing Your Words and Not a Word Among Them
(Sonnet XXXVI)
Edna St. Vincent Millay