Sharing Art with an Ungenda
Perspective is a wonderful thing. I'm looking at you, Seattle. Whether the Seahawks became repeat champions had no bearing on the hangovers many of us experienced that Monday. In fact, they would have been worse with a win. But it was more than a pounding headache and aversion to sunlight afflicting the city. It was what could have been. It was defeat.
Hold your saline drops and let’s step back. The Seahawks became NFC Champions in an improbable fairytale of a game at home in Seattle two weeks previous. Heralded as perhaps the Superest of Bowls, the big showdown in the desert was a magnificent performance that Hawks fans must unfortunately file under "tragedy." Yet, what a performance! As someone who sees football as a beautiful, competitive ballet, that most Super Bowl was a full-on magnum opus of the best sportball companies going.
The Hawks played as many games as they can possibly play, keeping us hoarse and happy all the way into February. Spring’s nearly in sight (perhaps here, it seems) and before long we will once again be able to do things outside without feeling like we’re making a mistake. Really, win lose or draw, how does that game really affect your life?
I like to apply that same reasoning to what I do as an artist. Other than letting me occasionally get to “the zone” of bliss and creativity, and dream big and often, what does my art accomplish?
My artist alter-ego, Ungenda, incorporates some of that perspective. I don’t want my selfish agenda, my ego and my income, pushed to the front.
So who can benefit from my art?
I'd like to start the year, and this blog, by telling you about the fantastic experience I had discovering one answer to that question. On New Years Eve 2014, I found myself setting up a sculpture at a very interesting place - Regency North Bend Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, in North Bend.
After touring the health center placed picturesquely underneath a spire seen worldwide in David Lynch's Twin Peaks, I awkwardly occupied space in the small foyer as I pondered where I wanted to place "Conscious Kutsu," a meditative sculpture loosely inspired by traditional Japanese meditative water devices. There were a few residents passing time there, inactive, some with varying tremors, who had endured my pacing and attempts to look like I wasn’t trying to look like I was looking some way.
As I attempted to critically contrast my options for effectively placing my art, curiosity at its audience before me stymied my thoughts. I was unable to stop myself from pondering their state of consciousness as they sat jitteringly but silently sedentary. You see, the foyer includes a code box with numbers written above it. While some residents are only physically impaired or recovering, many are mentally unable to care for themselves outside the haven of considerate care.
Finally I settled on a plan and retrieved a nurse, who was asked by a patient what was going on. "We're going to put a sculpture here."
As light seemed to enter their newly animated eyes, a chorus of genuine excitement came from residents.
My surprise when tedium erupted to exuberance! All of a sudden, they were happy, and so was I: this was going to work out great. During my three visits in the course of installing the art (and modifying it to be more tamper-resistant), I was privileged to step into an endearing community of individuals:
Could you use a little dose of perspective? If you aren't getting it from yourself, fear not - you can get it from someone else (like a disease that makes you feel better!). Try volunteering to be there for a person who's got it worse. If you don't know where to volunteer, just ask - even right here in the comments. Read to them, bring them food, just visit, whatever fits. They need you, and you might need them more than you know.
It was my pleasure to discover the world of Regency North Bend is a wonderful sanctuary, a queer kind of special utopia, where people who really need help receive receive it from incredibly caring people. But the safest cocoon retreat can also be the most stifling, and the joy and curiosity I heard from those first surprised exclamations made me so thrilled to be working on bringing my art to health care centers.
Oh, and if you'd like to see more of the sculpture I'm talking about, my friend Julia Bruk, whose first feature film as director of photography Winning Dad is set to debut soon, took some fantastic photos and video.
Thanks for checking out my very first, and likely longest blog post! Though the first sculpture in this series, American Suikinkutsu, has been permanently installed at Cascade Valley Hospital in Arlington since 2010, this was my trial run for installations supported by a modest grant from 4Culture, King County’s art development authority, to exhibit my work in over half a dozen hospitals or health care centers. To see how it, and the rest of my art career goes, please subscribe below!
Tom Mattausch is a Seattle-based mixed-media artist making sculpture and public art. Themes include meditative functions, concrete, ancient technology, blown glass, electronics, interactivity, and water.