Sunday, September 28, 2008

Before Completion

Before Completion (Fire Over Water)
Hexagram 64 of the I Ching
fabrics, threads and paint, 10x21 in, Jude Spacks '08 $549

I love that the I Ching ends before it ends: its final hexagram is called Before Completion. The text describes the transition from a state of standstill or stagnation, to one of peace. "It points to the fact that every end contains a new beginning. Thus it gives hope...." (all quotations from The I Ching Book of Changes, Wilhelm/Baynes trans.)

Before Completion is a more auspicious oracle than the preceding one, 63, After Completion, which describes an evolution from peace to standstill. When everything is done and all in order, movement stops: "For it is just when perfect equilibrium has been reached that any movement may cause order to revert to disorder."

(This reminds me of a couple I heard of who were both studying Alexander technique. The woman found her husband lying on the bed. "Don't touch me!" he said, "I'm perfectly aligned.")

Young Fox, fabrics (prints available)

A key metaphor of both hexagrams is of a fox crossing an iced over stream. An old fox has the experience, sensitivity and alertness to cross successfully. A young fox may impetuously try to rush things to completion, and wind up with the humiliation of getting its tail wet at the end.

"Success. But if the little fox, after nearly completing the crossing, gets his tail in the water, there is nothing that would further...."

Then, after crossing, it's important not to turn back and get your head wet. When it's over, let it be over.

Before Completion, detail, viewed from the side

Completion calls for the tricky job of differentiating and harmonizing factors that don't easily accord with each other, like fire and water. The text explains that the only way to do this is to be in right relation with ourselves first. "...in order to handle external forces properly, we must above all arrive at the correct standpoint ourselves, for only from this vantage can we work correctly."


Working from the correct standpoint in myself on this fire and water piece meant being a beginner. I'd never made anything quite like it before. It kept me surprised the whole time, following unexpected directions from inner guidance, like the idea of hanging one section of the piece from the other.

I experimented with a chenille technique and with making fringe out of some special threads (see The Support of Water). I didn't realize the title until the end. After it was "complete" I saw that the fringe suggested a fox's tail. Maybe it also implies the unraveling of ends--things coming and going from one form to another.

Another recent piece used thread to suggest fire. It also references endings and beginnings in the image of a phoenix, that burns and rises anew from its ashes. The hexagonal mirror can place your face between incarnations of the phoenix above and below.

Phoenix Mirror, Jude Spacks '08
fabrics, threads, paint, and mirror, 12x21in

detail, Phoenix (chenille and threads)

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