My Thresholds Series was initially inspired by the environment; the weather and the light actually, and it evolved from there. I made the first one in 2006 so it doesn’t really look very much like the rest at all, which is what happens when you don’t have time to work on something while you’re in a certain mood. But the idea evolved from there and I started to explore it again in 2010 with two pieces that sort of look like stained glass because they have that luminous quality, and then again in 2012 when I was thinking about the light for some reason and remembered all the hours I spent playing out in the trees behind the driving shed when I was a kid…
I loved being in the trees because of the sounds that I could tune in to if I sat very still… birds chirping, heat crickets, the buzz of a fly, the whaw whaw whaw sound of a bird’s wings, and I was equally captivated by the spaces and pathways of light created by the shapes of the leaves, branches and twigs. The shapes were like openings and doorways, and the textures on the leaves were like roads and miniature landscapes, and of course where there is a road there’s a journey to be taken or a path to follow, but which one, and where to?
Technically a threshold is a piece of wood or stone that’s placed beneath an entrance or a doorway. We cross a threshold every time we enter or leave a room, or a building, so that’s the journey part, and I crossed a threshold each time I played in those trees, hid in their leaves, and bounced on their branches. I went from a place and a feeling of chaos to a much more intimate and peaceful world of my own.
To be on the threshold is like being ‘betwixt and between’… you’re on the brink, on the verge, at the edge, or even at a boundary. And while a boundary makes me think about a limit or a line on a map that defines the area or a country, boundaries also denote our personal limits and our capacity to accommodate or withstand something. Boundaries can be permeable or not, boundaries differentiate us from each other, and like a threshold either link us to our environment or separate us from it. So a threshold, much like a boundary distinguishes an interior system from its external environment, and there’s a lot more I could say about that…
A threshold can also mark a point of beginning, so it’s the outset… the time at which something is supposed to begin. Sometimes it’s easy to feel like that’s just never going to happen, especially when we are ‘betwixt and between,’ which is really the same as ‘neither here nor there’; we can be stuck in the middle; non-starters.
I find that when people are ‘neither here nor there’ they often define themselves as being ‘in transition’ — and they say it like that’s some sort of place, or as though being in transition is a temporary state of mind, or of being, but temporary nonetheless; like soon they’ll be all finished with that. The transition will be over. But we’re always in transition aren’t we? We’re always on the threshold of … the next big thing… an adventure, a change. Just take one step and everything changes, or don’t take one step, and everything changes around you anyway. Like it or not.
And finally, a threshold is also called a limen, which refers to the smallest change in stimulation that a person can detect; the strength at which a stimulus is just perceived; the bare minimum intensity or value of a signal, or a minute point that must be exceeded, to be realized, or to begin producing a given effect, or a result, or to elicit a response. Something can be at the threshold of our consciousness for example, and sometimes it can just be there forever.
So, whether you consider your threshold a limit, a margin, a minimum or a starting point, one thing’s for sure, to cross a threshold, you must begin.
My entries are all part of what I’ve been calling my Threshold Series. These paintings relate to lived experience because it is something I’ve only recently acquired a name for, but has danced in the shadows of my life for as long as I can remember. This dance has been ethereal and raw. It has been the bane of my existence and the driver of my achievements. It’s been the power behind my voice at its most authentic, articulate and persuasive best. It’s been the thing that has tethered and contained me. Or not. When we are stuck, a threshold can feel like twirling on the point of a pin. The moment we put one foot forward or we are forced to make a leap, we cross a threshold and emerge somewhere new; a new space, place, way of being, or depth of understanding, and that’s all part of the journey. Thresholds are like tiny rays of hope, secret compartments, new worlds, and mulligans – do overs without penalty. There’s a sinuous quality to these paintings, meaning that they’re characterized by bends, curves and folds, winding and undulating. They are like new buds, muscles, tendons, water flowing, growth, and life. And that’s what “lived experience” is like, something to be contemplated, but not contained; something we have but not the only thing that defines us.