Feast or Famine

by Julie Paschkis

This show, FEAST, contains work that Joe and I created over several years. But for me the work didn’t come in a steady flow. I work in my studio consistently but my ideas and output ebb and flow. Sometimes I am dissatisfied with what I am making and sometimes I am excited. What I want, and what I sometimes get, is to be so absorbed in what I am doing that the work takes on a life of its own; creating starts to feel like a conversation. I call this traction – my friend Deborah Mersky calls it flow. I think we are talking about the same thing. When I don’t have flow or traction I am itchy, miserable and self-doubting. When I do then life falls into place around the central act of creating. Sometimes I can’t remember what starts a flow of ideas and sometimes I can. Here are a few things that bumped me into creativity for this body of work.

I saw a show of African American quilts at the Bellevue Art Museum this summer. I was inspired by the beauty, the utility and the imperfection of the quilts. This subtle variations in shape and the many shades of blue and white – all slightly different – made this quilt come alive.

The quilts jolted me with the idea that images don’t need to be complicated to be beautiful or meaningful, and they led to the series of work that I called Blue Quilts. I did many paintings on small sheets of paper and pieced them together like quilts. I dyed some of the sheets of paper with tea to create variations in the whites.

Another bump came when I was having lunch with a friend – Margaret Chodos-Irvine. I was frustrated with the work I was doing for Feast and feeling empty of ideas. She said: “Well, you can’t just paint a Feast. It has to be feast or famine.” How could I have forgotten? I almost kicked over the table in my eagerness to get back and  paint. These paintings and more were sparked by that conversation.

In old still-lifes the butterfly symbolized mortality. Life is fleeting. Fruit ripens and dies. We ripen and die. Feast and famine go together, as do life and death, creative times and fallow times.