Breathing the Air of Art: first post-COVID visit to the AGO, August 2020

Last week’s post examined the idea of an artist’s selfishness, and I’ve been thinking more about that since. The space we need to make art, to create, is largely a personal one, a sanctum. There’s a quality of hermitage about it. Some might say it’s a selfish place. At the same time, as the opera singer that I am–at least that has been the arena in which I have been most artistically active–there’s a teamwork aspect and a very public face to it that is currently dormant due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And I have missed that element. But what I have come to enjoy in a very different way during this much more solitary period, however, is exactly the so-called “selfish” part: the space in which I show up, set an intention that is mine and mine alone, and explore where I am in a vocal, physical way. This is more and more frequently without an expectation of outcome and with a willingness to go wherever the practice takes me. It may seem selfish to some, but to me it represents a different kind of choice: the choice to quietly and calmly observe what I am doing and let that be enough.

My (increasingly sporadic–oops!) meditation practice has informed my singing practice in that it more often focuses on beginning with the breath and the discovery of it. Sometimes the emphasis is on exhaling, on seeing how long I can breathe out, and even on how long I can exist without feeling the urgency to breathe in again. Other times I explore the expansiveness of inhalation, of learning to allow more expansion and openness. Sometimes I encounter a fear of that kind of vastness of self, and I look at that too. I look at it all: panic, fear, curiosity, delight, power, powerlessness, courage. I recognize the spiritual element in my singing practice, that sometimes all I need is to attend to the air that I breathe. Simple as that.