99 PERCENT CLARITY

99 PERCENT CLARITY December 6, 2018
Photo: Camelia Elias

I’m sitting with an art project that involves exhibition of photographs. I’m staring at the thing, and wait for the perfect vision about it to unfold. One percent of knowing exactly what I’m trying to do is missing, so I’m having a controlled moment of waiting for a chance revelation.

Where art is concerned, the type that grabs your heart mercilessly, I have no illusions. If I don’t have the one hundred percent clarity about my project, I drop it. The reason for the dropping act has to do with acknowledging the million of other artists on the planet who prove to be better, whose ‘perfect’ is better than my ‘good enough perfect.’

Here’s a something that might inspire you, in case you experience a similar situation.

When the one percent is missing, I take it from the other end. For instance, I start cutting the mats to fit my prints in, even before I know about the exact measure of the prints.

I’m buying chemicals, gelatin silver, lith developer, gum bichromate and such, even before I make up my mind as to whether or not I’ll step into a darkroom at all. In the end I might as well smack a Hipstamatic filter combination on my raw files, and go with one hundred precent iPhoto art.

Selfie in the mirror with iPhone, waiting for a revelation.

What’s interesting is not the medium, but the process.

While I sit with archival tape, transparent corners, and the matting kit, I pay attention to where my knife goes. Something is already in my head pertaining to the idea of getting close, of cutting to the bones. I’m there ninety-nine percent. Perhaps the missing one percent is about close-ups, about holding a memory.

Recently I shared on Instagram an old memory. I always liked experimenting, as playing with chance, control, and accident gives me the air of a scientist. When I was in fifth grade I almost convinced myself that I was going to become a chemist. At least that was what my teacher thought, after having witnessed a fine demonstration of my recitation of the Mendeleev table by heart. I so loved this teacher and I thought that one way of making her happy was if I did something that was not required, but still a good idea, which was to memorize all the elements and their position in the chemical order of things. Perhaps memory is also an element.

Forty years down the road I find myself rummaging through chemical concoctions that respond differently to light. Today there’s a thick witchy fog. What if I overexposed in this light? This is a never ending story. Meanwhile I made the decision to have ten perfect prints for the exhibition.

I asked the cards, in all humbleness: What am I waiting for? Secretly I’m hoping that the cards will reveal the missing one percent just like that. I took out a very old playing cards deck that has very thin ink writing on it. The person who wrote on the cards clearly used them for fortunetelling.

The ink and the hand-writing aged on the stupendous card stock in a very delicate way. This is already art in the highest.

I got all red cards:

Early 19th c. English Playing Cards (Photo: Camelia Elias)

7 Diamonds, Ace of Hearts, Jack of Diamonds

There’s hand writing on the first two, but not on the Jack, who is self-explanatory in the old fortune-teller’s worldview.

Seven diamonds is ‘Thoughts,’ and the Ace is the ‘House.’ Yeah, I need this in the bag, as it were.

Early 19th c. English Playing Cards (Photo: Camelia Elias)
Early 19th c. English Playing Cards (Photo: Camelia Elias)

The Jack of Diamonds following seems to suggest that the one percent that’s missing is about polishing. Polishing the idea that’s familiar to me. I think of my love of chemists and the regret over what I don’t have. I don’t have a bloody darkroom. I have mats that are cut into shape and their empty space.

My eyes fixate on the Ace of Hearts. Such a marvelous singular expression. But the Jack of Diamonds gives me the cold shoulder. He’s not impressed with my effort, retorting back: ‘If you don’t know what it is, if you don’t know why the one percent is missing, why don’t you ask, ask me, for example?’

Damn. Reading the damn cards is a merciless affair. I think I’m going to do just that, bring my thoughts into a close-up and then ask the one who knows better.

Before you know it, I’ll have 10 prints that will be the expression of having answered the why. Why am I doing this?

Art is exciting for this reason alone. Wish me luck.

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About Camelia Elias
Camelia Elias, PhD, Dr.Phil., is a former university professor. After 20 years in the academia, she left her career to pursue her interests in teaching and writing on the philosophy and practice of reading cards. She works with contemplative arts, oracular language, and martial arts cartomancy and Zen at her own school, Aradia Academy. You can read more about the author here.
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