By AC Carlson, Indiana University
In the weeks since I first viewed Ashby’s “Seasons,” my mind has continued to drift back to the image of the figure engulfed by her flaming dress of fall foliage. As she is consumed “in a last desperate gasp of brilliance,” the figure shifts from woman to shapes, gestures, and lines before collapsing into the “naked” forest of winter. Spring, then, “embroiders” and “sews” the mountain and the sleeping figure’s final dress, with new colors appearing slowly and deliberately across the image.
The breaking down and rebuilding of the figure throughout the piece is an effective choice, allowing the poem to take on further nuance. As the seasons progress, the artistic process behind the piece is also made visible. A focus on creative product can elide the importance of process (the more photogenic “blanket of virgin white” concealing “the rotting leaves and corpses of trees” of invention). Yet what are the seasons if not perennial process? During the long days of summer, it can be hard to remember the cold, but we are not given the summer or the harvest in Ashby’s piece. Instead, we are confronted with the turn of the year—with the breaking down and rebuilding of nature, yes, but also of the creative process.
“Seasons” evokes the work of (re)building something new. From the fiery burst of initial inspiration, the artist (or scholar, or mountain, or tree), must sit with the materials at hand and the process of transformation the materials as well as the artist/scholar themself must undergo to create once again. Only then the work of spring—the sewing, tending, and blossoming—can begin. Though we conclude “Seasons” with the figure at rest, it is rest littered with the process of creation. We leave with the knowledge that the seasons do not cease. And, perhaps, if the seasonal metaphor for the creative process is something we connect with, we find solace in knowing that we can also continue to build, create, and grow through both our own dances of desperate brilliance and delicate, blooming sleeps.