Walking Slowly Toward the Jazz

“Postcards from Home”
©2015 Molly Larson Cook
Acrylic and paper ephemera


As I work my way through new territory, I’m open to whatever guideposts I come across.  My decision to continue painting and creating pieces related to jazz is the basic map, but to go from there to finished new work is a little more daunting. 

The underlying vision is intact, but the execution of it – how I want to do that – is taking more time. 

When I began My So-called Serious Life in Art back in 2014-15, most of my work was one kind of collage or another.  I clipped every interesting image I could find in books and magazines, put them together, took them apart, bought myself a light table and collected a lot of odds and ends that might be useful in one collage or another.  I even found stickers which I applied in one large piece only to have an art mentor nix them. With my permission, he removed the stickers (rollerskates). I later noticed that he had posted them in his office. 

Over time, I began to paint the backgrounds for the collages and then apply the other bits when inspiration struck.  I developed a small body of work titled “Celestial Bodies” that included images of a nude sitting on a stack of books – art and writing, I said to myself! 

Increasingly, I became more interested in the painting than the gluing although I still have several of those early works and enjoy them.  The postcard piece above was donated to a charity auction upon request, and when it sold to a California collector, I was much encouraged. 

As I’ve been exploring new ways to “paint jazz” I’ve begun to think about returning at least in a small but new way to the collage/paint combination.

While I pondered this and began running it through my mind, wondering if I was just backtracking, I ran across a quote by that well-known artist/philosopher, Abraham Lincoln. Who woulda thought? It’s this:

“I walk slowly. But I never walk backward.”

We know he was not talking about art, but the minute I read it, I thought about my work and my new search. And I thought that perhaps I’m not backtracking after all. Perhaps I am simply walking slowly for now. Perhaps this is just how we progress from one stage of our work to another, from one project to another, building on what worked before, but adding or subtracting, changing, modifying as we go. 

A photographer might add a new filter or change the composition of the photos in some significant way, but the basic process remains the same.  A choreographer adds new steps and movements but uses the same basic patterns to create the dance.

So, to cut to the meat of this, I’m playing right now – experimenting, trying something different. A new filter, a few new steps.

I’m inspired to try some collage again.  Some combination of media and paint.  And because I love abstract expression, I won’t be gluing down pictures of pianos or saxophones.  I shy away from realistic images. That doesn’t change. 

The truth is, I have no idea how this will play out or what to expect, but isn’t that the best part of the creative life?

For now, I’ll pay attention to the words of the aging jazz drummer, Philly Phipps, a main character in my jazz novel, Listen:

“You play the first note, baby, and see what happens.
Then you play the next note.
If you know all the notes before you start, that might be something. 
That might be music.
But it ain’t jazz.”

I’m playing the first notes and if I stay with it, I might make jazz.  Abstract expressionism is, after all, visual improvisation. 

Take it away, Philly…








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