My experience as an artist so far has been that I am led down various life paths, often related to the BIG LIFE ISSUES (marriage, career, friendships, family, health scares for myself or those close to me, minor and major tragedies, national and world events) and make art in response to those experiences. The art isn’t really planned beyond “I think I’m OK at writing, so I’ll study that, and since I’ve studied it a bit, I guess that’s my main media” or “I’m sick of words and need to try to express myself through some other art form so maybe I’ll play the ukulele because it only has four strings so how hard can it be?”
In short: Art Reflects Life.
But now, in my mid-40s, I find myself wondering if the more meaningful creative path might be Life Reflects Art. Wherein the artist would choose an art form and follow that through its stations and to its conclusions — the education, the creative exploration, the accompanying intellectual, spiritual and perhaps even physical exploration. (The latter, e.g., “If I work out harder and build muscle can I incorporate flaying trapeze into my ukulele practice?” or, perhaps more realistically, “How can I embody this art form? How can I add physicality to my craft?”)
What if social and romantic relationships are called in or driven by the artwork? What if travel and career and house upkeep and grocery purchases are informed by the artwork? How many ways and how completely can Life Reflect Art?
As I write this I think, in this time of social and political turmoil, it’s important that Art Reflects Life. We — our country, our community, those of us who draw courage and sustenance from art — need to see others process injustice, inequality, environmental degradation, climate change and all the other woes and ills through artwork. Where would we be without Emma Goldman’s writing, Basquiat’s graffiti, Pussy Riot’s music, Saul Williams’ poetry and Bread and Puppet’s theater?
We need responsive art. I need responsive art. And I need to make responsive art — art as resistance, art as revolution, art as regeneration.
But I’m also coming to believe (or at least to explore the idea) that I need the intentionality and focus of Life Reflecting Art. I write this with no clear course to proceed, no map, no plan. Just the germ of an idea for a sharp right turn. Left turn. Whatever.
And perhaps in choosing that path one learns that the two sides of the paradigm ultimately prove to be a whole — a yin-yang of creative process. That is the hope if not the immediate hypothesis.
NOTES FROM ARTIST TALK: Choreographer John Heginbotham and author/illustrator Maira Kalman on their collaborative work, Principals of Uncertainty
• Curate a museum
• NC/WNC rabbit myths?
• Leopard goddesss/shape-shifter —> Cherokee goddess? [Note: Wampus cat]
“After he started sketching her, he stood up, erased her, and walked out.” [Note: who am I quoting?]
• Fannie Lou Hamer, Democratic Convention, 1976.
• Costuming [Note: with doodle]
• Imposed limits by living in Asheville —> collaborators, venues
ART BOOK: textural, combo words and images, photo-copied material, book turns as you read it. [Note: did I mean the reader turns the book? Surely the book doesn’t turn itself.]
• Make video of extinction poem with Southern Belle garden party dress. Slash dress to shreds while reciting poem. [Note: How to practice this in advance?]
In the beginning, you can fully be in your innate knowledge because it’s not clouded by learned knowledge or experience. Innate knowledge is our connection to lineage — the thread that binds us to those in our practice who have gone before, and those who will come after.