I got caught in liminal space making art about liminal space. There was a space in between who I was before, who I am becoming, and a whole lotta learning in between. I’ll use my own head as a metaphor: I’ve been growing my hair out for years, and yet today it’s still just at my shoulders. I’ve told this story before, but when I was a kid I had wild curly hair, to which my mother would iron out and reset into rollers–every single night–so that my curls would be different than their natural state and look more like Shirley Temple.
It was a nightly ritual that lasted up until the fifth grade (when I finally said enough is enough!) and the rollers were painful to sleep on. It might seem minor, but embedded somewhere in there was a message that my natural state was never good enough. Throughout my teen years and beyond I rebelled by taking control of it myself, dying and straightening, still reinforcing that my naturalness was never good enough. It was only until recently that I saw through this charade in its entirety and have been letting the curls roam free. No more blow dryer, straightening iron, or fretting over my Little Orphan Annie fro at the beach. My hair has never been happier.
King Protea flower (Protea cynaroides) symbolizes change and transformation (source)
In these years of waiting for my hair to get long again, hairdressers would say that I needed to get regular cuts in order for it to grow. I dutifully listened, but in the past few years, my hair has not grown past my shoulders. It’s as though I was growing out bad decisions (just like those tiny unmanageable bangs) and truly finding myself within this process. I stopped listening to other people and listened to what my hair had to say instead. I endured the visual discomfort of growing out horrible bangs and layers that didn’t work, and now my hair is starting to look and feel healthy again. This can be said about life sometimes; when you listen to other people–or even the stories we tell ourselves–we may never step out of the transitional unknown and grow.
So what is this liminal space? “The word liminal comes from the Latin word limen, meaning threshold–any point or place of entering or beginning. A liminal space is the time between the ‘what was’ and the ‘next.’ It is a place of transition, waiting, and not knowing. Liminal space is where all transformation takes place, if we learn to wait and let it form us.” (source) It’s a transitional time when old ideas come apart and return anew. It’s not unlike the hero’s journey (think Star Wars!) but for some of us this journey is more quiet, metaphorical, and happening within. It did for me anyway.
Trust is the antidote to the discomfort of not knowing, though the hardest time to have trust is while facing the unknown (when you need it the most). There’s a great book for times that gnaw at our fear of the unknown: Pema Chödrön’s When Things Fall Apart. Trust that the answers will come.
I’ve also been watching an enormous amount of David Lynch these past months with the return of Twin Peaks. I fell down the rabbit hole and rewatched the original series, then some of his movies, then interviews… He’s big on transcendental meditation, and while that’s a practice to explore another time, the shared sentiment I came away with is accessing an “ocean of awareness” within.
A moving painting, but with sound. That idea stuck in my head. A moving painting. —David Lynch
There is also something Lynch said in The Art Life that I have been recently discovering in my work. This unexplainable thing that’s happening in the wee hours when I’m experimenting with my personal work, these chaotic animated drawings that I post sometimes. I’ve been referring to this new route as “moving sketches”, though Lynch refers to them as “moving paintings.” I’m pretty smitten that I was close tho.
Liminal Space is a beautiful thing but it’s totally possible to stay too long (hello, skeleton!)
An update on the Beautiful Monsters Project itself: a new monster will be posted every Friday on Instagram through September 8th. The posts will be shorter, and I will stop floating around in space! That makes a total of seven (including this one), so I’m calling these next monsters my Lucky Seven. Here’s a nice glass of PJ Harvey to pair with this week’s theme:
Monster: Kevin Liminal Spacey
Description: the space of ambiguity where you don’t know the answers and often rush through it to make yourself feel comfortable again. Discomfort with the unknown. The spaces in between. No affiliation to real-life actor Kevin Spacey, other than I think his movies are pretty good.