June 5, 2017

At the 63rd Chicago Chapter Meetup of CreativeMornings, Leah Ball Creates Art with Unabashed Sensuality

At the March 2017 gathering of CreativeMornings/Chicago, artist and home-goods maker Leah Ball began her talk with a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke:
“I live my life in widening rings
Which spread over Earth and sky
I may never complete the last one
But this is what I will try

...I circle ten thousand years long
And I still don’t know if I’m a falcon, a storm
Or an unfinished song…”
It was an introspective introduction to her talk, which felt at times like a tone poem. Lyrical like Rilke’s prose. Romantic in reverie. Transcendental at heart. Like Rilke’s poetry, Ball’s talk spoke to wayfinding—the human quest of identity and for meaning. The two intertwine. Bell’s quest for self-discovery and self-fulfillment come together as a range of products for the home, from ceramic ware to apparel. Two currents running throughout her work: human sexuality and sensuality. These, as Ball put it, are “themes of life—of information to research and work from.” The (to borrow another phrase of Ball) “unique motifs” feeding her worldview can be rooted in her inspiration: the pleasure principle and the practice of it. Ball is not shy to declare and embrace the residually taboo subject of human intimacy. The simplest (and formidable) tenet that I saw translated in Ball’s straightforward work is: I am. Ball shared two of her realities: I am a survivor of sexual trauma; I am queer. Through her work, Ball reclaims herself—her identity, ultimately, her life. Rilke’s corresponding advice in moving forward:
“Make your ego porous.”
Ball’s ego proactively involves pleasure, but not in an exclusively self-serving way. In addition to enjoying the pleasures of the world, Ball strives to improve it. Her handcrafted objects support artistic activism. One manifestation of this dynamic is Shop Sensual, which she co-founded. It’s a weekend-long creative market, exhibition and series of workshops that explore sensuality as a vital channel for wonder and expanding its scope with regards to the unexplored and unexpected. The overarching condition is the pleasure found in self-expression with the potential of change in outlook, even perspective. The romantic poet Rilke again matches with a tip:
“Go now and do the heart-work on the images imprisoned within you.”
 Ball keeps taking this life cue—to heart.

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Big thanks: to AgencyEA, Braintree (who also hosted), Green SheepLyft Chicago, Palmer Printing, for being Partners of Chicago CreativeMornings #63; to new organizer Jen Marquez who accepted the chapter’s hosting responsibilities from Knoed Creative who spoke at Chicago CreativeMornings #7; to the team of volunteers for greatly helping to have CreativeMornings happen monthly in Chicago.

Especially big thanks: to Tina Roth Eisenberg—Swissmiss—for inventing CreativeMornings in 2008.

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Read more CreativeMornings coverage.

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