Mary Ann Reilly is a friend of mine. She is one of those people whose words you want to repeat to everyone else. She sees and hears things that other people miss, which is helpful for her as an artist and educator.
Mary Ann has had a very exciting week. Born in Ireland, she lives in New Jersey, where she experienced Hurricane Sandy. You can learn more about Mary Ann and her work at her website and on Twitter at @MaryAnn Reilly.
Thank you, Mary Ann.
When the lights cut out, the sounds of the storm, of Hurricane Sandy, rise more acutely, more sharply—filling the dense darkness with that which is imagined and oddly rooted to memory.
We know only what we have named, I think, knowing even as I say these words aloud how foolish I am.
Do we not know more than we can say? Is it not a naming game to stand in a house away from the windows, far and yet never so far that the thought of glass flying can be erased and try to name what cannot be seen? That sound there–that is the sound of a shutter banging. And there–that creak is the house loosening from its moors. A deck collapses. Chairs slide. A table topples.
Not seeing makes every other sense more active, more determined to help me name what I no longer can see. It is what I oddly rely on as an artist. This not seeing is perhaps even more important than the seeing.
I listen with my whole body. I listen in new ways.
I am Wallace Stevens’ guitarist tonight.
“I cannot bring a world quite round,
Although I patch it as I can.”
It is this patching that I want to explore here—the way sound fills in sight, touch recalls a past: “A tune beyond us as we are.”
Learning to see with the absence of boundaries is what it means to make art–to stand in the house dark with storm.
I know more than I can say. I know less than I know.
I know that I live 20-minutes outside of Manhattan in northern New Jersey.
It’s a 90-minute drive to the shore—the very Atlantic I routinely go to and shoot.
I was born beside the Atlantic in Ireland.
Ireland is a five-hour plane ride from New York.
These are facts and still tonight the distance between facts and fate feels less substantial.
Storms, like Sandy, fold time and distance and obscure known boundaries. Nature moves at a consistent pace regardless of human facts. Facts be damned. Before this night closes 22 people will die in ways none could have imagined earlier in the day.
Here it is never really dark and our boundaries remain stable. The city and its many suburbs throw ambient light into each night, a radiance that is every bit as beautiful as it is disturbing. A noise pollution that is quieted tonight as lights cut out.
It is in deep darkness that seeing is more possible.
Sometimes when I am making art I am blind, working by instinct, adding and removing layers, feeling what is emerging. Much like these words. Much like the nighttime storms. Then, the center is not possible to name.
Faith is the absence of needing to stand outside in a storm.
When the clattering gets so loud, when the banging scares me and I want to know more, I open the front door, step out on to the porch and stand there. It is a bit after 9 p.m. and I wait until the wind has tempered.
The night is hollow and we are seated inside a vacuum.
“So that’s life, then: things are they are?”
Through art I sense a way through.
Each work is a refusal to seek safe passage.
There is something I must learn here.
All night as the wind has howled my husband has been seated reading Moby Dick.
We are grim about the mouth, I think, and November is nearly upon us, well beyond damp, beyond drizzle.
Later, as the storm continues, abated a bit, I will read this tweet a friend sends out and smile, nudge open the window a bit.
A terrible beauty.
That is what art and seeing and being are.
That is what storms bring, but not always what they leave.
“Throw away the lights, the definitions,
And say of what you see in the dark,”
chides the blue guitarist.
Saying what you see in the dark
begins by throwing away the definitions.
Each act of faith,
each act of art
is an act of darkness and of light.
[Image by luisar]