I long ago gave up thinking that my art and my lifeincluding CAMP Rehoboth and Sundancewere separate things. The vision, the creativity, the energy, the passion, and the heart are all one and the same. Once I accepted that premise, my life grew simpler and I learned to trust that the answer I needed in any given moment was already right in front of me if I but took the time to see it.
On June 25, my 22nd show, titled Stages, opens at the Blue Moon, and its subject matter, once again, feels relevant to the workings of CAMP Rehoboth. Though I'm well aware that "art speak," as I like to call it, sometimes has the tendency to make a listener's eyes glaze over, I will try to keep it simple and directfor my sake as well as the readers of this magazine.
First, and on a very basic level, Stages is an exploration of the progressionthe stagesof the human heart in its lifelong quest to both live in and rise above the complexity and struggle of the human condition. It is about the transformation of the human spirit and the steps to a higher consciousness.
Using some of the new techniques I've been working on for the last few years, the images embedded in the paint are simple and symbolic. All the paintings contain a grid that represents the structurethe society, the culture, the environment, and the institutionsin which we live. In some of the paintings the grid controls the work, in others it recedesbut it is always present in some form.
Also present in every piece is the spiral shape, which for me has long represented creativity. The simplistic figures that I use in the paintings only hint at a body shape, but clearly depict the eyes (vision, reason, and being) and the heart, which exists at every stage from body to spirit.
All the painting titles in Stages play with stage (as in theatrical) terms, not to imply that it is not about real life experiences, but in recognition that only in the conscious re-enactment and examination of life to we begin to see and understand what life is all about.
I could go on, of course, but that's the condensed version and probably more than anyone really wanted to know anyway. In the end, after all, the art must stand alone, and its life exists only in the eyes and in the reaction of the viewer.
In the original mission and purpose of CAMP Rehoboth, even in the very name itself, the organization is charged with "creating a more positive" environment that promotes cooperation and understanding among all people. Stripping away all the verbiage, doesn't that simply mean that we are trying to "make love," so to speakto create a more loving and understanding world?
The problem of trying to change an environment, of course, is that we come right back to "the grid"to the structure of our society, to our ancient and rigid belief systems and deeply ingrained prejudices. Transformation sounds like a magic word, something that happens in the blink of an eye, but the reality is that true transformationwhether on an individual or a collective leveltakes time. It also, I firmly believe, takes heartand reason and courage, as well. I was about to say that that's a story for another day, but come to think of it, Dorothy's beloved journey "over the rainbow" is exactly the story we should be talking about. Like all great human tales, it is one about transformation. Dorothy dreams of a better world; Dorothy's adventures take her on a journey where she learns to think, to feel, and to find the courage to face her fears; Dorothy returns home with the understanding that everything she needs to make this a better place already exists in her own heart.
The journey that every gay person faces is one of accepting that we are who we are. Long before we are in a place to be able to change the world, we have to take that inward journey to learn about ourselves. Long before we can "come out" into the world we have to travel through the inward stages that allow us to overcome the rigid constraints of the world around us. I say gay people, but truly this experience goes far beyond gay or straight. No matter what issue it is that each person faces in their lives, it requires going through the stages that make transformation possible.
The vision statement for the CAMP Rehoboth Community Center is "to be the heart of the community." As we learn what that really means, we must, as a community, continue to take both the inward and the outward journey. As we continue to discover and understand who we are and our role, both in and out of "the grid," we must pass through the stages that allow transformation to happenboth within us and in the world around us.
Murray Archibald is President of the Board of Directors of CAMP Rehoboth.
The paintings, from top are: Love Scene (in the wings); Scene One (on stage); In The Wings (study 4).
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 15, No. 7 June 17, 2005