Why is She Up There, Mummy? (part two)

So, the excitement and fear of the (will they/won’t they) proposal letter and its reception over and done with, I settled back into wondering what on earth I was actually doing.  “What’s it all about?” I wondered, not for the first time, in my notebook.  Why, when all the other artists had left (aka moved on), was I still here?

This is what I wrote:-

“It’s about

Belonging vs. Being Out of Place

Being Here v. Wanting to be Somewhere Else

Authenticity v. Disguise

Nature v. Civilisation

Childhood v. Adulthood

Freedom of Expression v. Repression

It’s also about lounging about and having fun!

These are all themes in my life.

It’s also about the frustration of discovering there are some things I really don’t like about myself – but try as I might, I can’t seem to change…”

And we all know what they say about leopards…

Smile for the camera, please!

Smile for the camera, please!

To conclude: there’s a certain amount of stuckness going on in my life (not to be confused with Stuckism, which is something entirely different), and so it seems apt that I should be ‘stuck’ up a tree for a year.

That’s why she’s up there, Mummy.

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The End of Leopardry?

After the draft proposal in my notebook came this:-

Draft_proposal_2aDraft_proposal_2b

And then, for two weeks, I did nothing.  I didn’t re-type or deliver my letter. Day after day, I trudged up and down the banks of the River Mersey in Didsbury with my dog, see-sawing between “Yes, it’s a good idea” and “No, it’s a terrible idea.”

What if they said no?  What if they said yes?  I couldn’t work out which would be worse.

Finally, on 5th August I typed the finished version.

On 6th August… Well, read it yourself – a page from my notebook:-

20131030_200126My little heart sang.

And then I fled down to my mother’s in Essex for five days.

Notes from a Tree/06

Here’s a drawing I made in my sketchbook during the last days of the exhibition. I’m looking down at the base of the tree, where it forks just above ground level.  It was difficult to convey the perspective.

Looking down at the base of the tree

Looking down at the base of the tree

As the end of the show drew closer, I felt sad at the thought of not being able to climb the magnolia tree any more (I did so, for those two weeks, by special permission).  It had been such a rich and unusual experience.  These are some of the things I gained from my performance:-

It brought me closer to nature.  Literally.  I had to hug the tree and wrap my limbs around it in order not to fall out.  I climbed barefoot, loving the feel of tree bark on the soles of my feet and against the palms of my hands and the tips of my fingers; loving the sensation of climbing, moving all four limbs in harmony, like an animal.

It showed me another perspective: that of an animal, a hunter in repose, watching the movements of others as they passed beneath me, or sat down to rest themselves, not knowing I was there.

It slowed down the pace of my life and my thoughts.  It gave me t-i-m-e to think, have ideas, make notes, draw, write poetree, etc.

It tickled me, it genuinely did.  It made me smile: here I was, putting myself on show in a public place, in such an absurd way – and unless I called out, most people passed by without noticing.  Bizarre!

I had some wonderful conversations with some of the people who did notice me.

A lady called Marguerite in conversation with a Leopard in Didsbury

A lady called Marguerite in conversation with a leopard (in Didsbury)

I enjoyed the opportunity to reflect on my life, on the meaning of my performance, on the purposes of art… and on what I might have for dinner.

It brought me into the present moment, with its sunshine/cloud, birdsong, voices, next door’s lawnmower, aeroplanes overhead, summer breezes and so on.

It gave me a welcome break from phone calls, emails, text messages and facebook.  (I don’t do twitter. Whoever heard of a leopard tweeting?)

It was a bit like staging a personal, peaceful, one-woman protest against a world full of noise, technology, and bad news.

It gave me an excuse to do something socially unacceptable without being branded mentally ill.

Last in this list, but not least: it introduced me to some wonderful artists (my fellow exhibitors) and their work.

No wonder I didn’t want it to end.

Why is She Up There, Mummy? (part one)

I thought it might be useful to add this, for the record.  Here is the blurb I wrote for the exhibition:-

Artist’s Name: Lorna Ruskin
Title of work: “Self Portrait: Leopard (Dreams are Made of This)” 2013

Type of artwork: Performance

For the exhibition “If Not Here, Where?” I present a performance-based self-portrait. Dressed in a leopard onesie, I lounge in a tree, pondering my current life situation and waiting for the impulse to move. Surveying my life so far – the choices I have made – I wonder what happened to my dreams, to the life I thought I would have, and the person I thought I would be… Am I happy with who I am? Can I change..?

I am not from around here.

How is it – when I used to imagine myself living a life in Africa – that I am still here, living my life in Manchester, of all places? Do I belong here? Do I fit in? Is this my native land, my natural environment? Is this where I want to be?

And if I dream of being elsewhere, is that a dream I really want to make real, or do I just like dreaming…?

If not here, where would you be?

Notes from a Tree/04

From my notebook, dated 14th July 2013

The hot weather endures.

I endure

Saddle-sore discomfort,

grazed feet and ankles –

the results of my clumsiness when climbing.

Being overlooked (underlooked –  Look Up!  Look Up!) and then:

“Why is she up there, Mummy?”

Little girl bright in a yellow cardigan

with dark brown eyes.

“Why is she up there, Mummy?”

Mummy takes little girl by the hand, bends over her, low

Her voice is hushed –

Mummy probably doesn’t know, either.

A Weimaraner, my best visitor yet,

Jumping up to try and reach my toes and

Falling, rolling over on its back as it lands on the grass

Blue eyes turned up to me, perched on my bough

Its ears falling back

WHAT’S THAT???!!!

Unlike a squirrel, and unlike a cat.

I decide I really ought to have my camera at the ready, at all times.