This impulse to connect the dots--and to share what you've connected--is the urge that makes you an artist. If you're using words or symbols to connect the dots, whether you're a "professional artist" or not, you are an artistic force in the world.
I've been thinking a lot about art lately. And about artists.
In kindergarten, the teacher had us fill out autobiographical sheets. I wrote that I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. At home, there was much mirth over the stick drawing I used to illustrate the page. The next year, though I enjoyed many craft projects in class, I didn't much like Mrs. Kirkpatrick, the art teacher. She seemed grumpy.
I never had an art teacher again. I figured art and I just weren't that compatible. If I was to create, I would use words.
The "Art" entry in our World Book Encyclopedia was stapled together so we wouldn't see anything corrupting. In other volumes, illustrations deemed inappropriate were covered over or cut out. Most art museums were off-limits (we might see nudity!).
Art galleries were...unsettling. Fundamentalists prefer depictions of heroism, paradise, or optimism portrayed as reality. Think Gettysburg, Leave It To Beaver and Thomas Kinkade. We were taught that the Impressionists were wishy-washy. Picasso was an anarchist pervert, a threat to moral society.
Yet as an adult, I found myself drawn to art.
|M's school art project
I approached with caution, recognizing quickly that art is unpredictable.
It could be absorbing... illuminating... breathtaking... grim.
At times incomprehensible.
A room's worth might be forgotten, while a single detail could wedge itself into my mind for months.
I explored art with Chris, with friends, and finally on my own. One morning on the way to my therapist's office, I stopped at the studio of a local artist whose work I had admired at the Wichita Art Museum. The studio was closed, but I rang the bell anyway. Marilyn Grisham answered, invited me in, told me stories, and showed me projects she was working on. When I told Chris what I'd done, I could see that he was proud and a little in awe. Art had drawn me beyond my usual anxiety and allowed me to have an adventure far outside my comfort zone.
I learned that art is as least as much what I bring to it as what the artist offers me. Art is an exchange, a relationship, a gift.
When artists work well, they connect people to themselves, and they stitch people to one another, through this shared experience of discovering a connection that wasn't visible before. (Amanda Palmer)
But, slowly, I arrived at the conclusion that I, too, am an artist. Not in a commercial or professional sense, obviously. But Chris and I, indeed, our entire family, are artists.
We love to create bold new things that challenge traditional ways of thinking, please our own senses, and express our values. Sometimes with words, but also with colors and costumes and drawing and acting and building and programming.
Perhaps some of the projects I'm working on will endure longer and be seen by more eyes, heard by more ears. Perhaps not. What matters is how I value what I do.
I discovered Amanda partly because her husband happens to be my husband's favorite author and mostly because of her amazing feminist song in defense of pubic hair. Then I found out they have an open marriage and that she reads live bedtime stories on Twitter. And I finally picked up her book.
When the world feels too dark or too topsy-turvy, you know whose Twitter feeds I run to? Artists. Comedians. Writers. Musicians. I've decided that artists are society's shock absorbers. They feel the quakes first and most deeply so they can help the rest of us process them. Amanda has been one of those people for me lately.
So much of what Amanda writes resonates with me. I started this blog because I kept connecting dots and needed to have a place to share what I was seeing, "bleeding my heart onto the page". Even when hitting "Publish" made me quake with anxiety, it was worth it to know I was being seen.
And then you began commenting or writing to me and letting me know that you were seeing the same patterns, that my stories informed your own.
|R setting glass in wet cement last week
I'm going to keep connecting dots. I can't help it! And as I find ways to share what I see, I'm going to keep doing that, too.