Monday, May 11, 2009

As Good Excuse As Any

This week I got an e-mail from a stranger on my website. Happens all the time. This one got me to thinking, though. She said that in the hard times we find ourselves going through in our country, she found it rather self-indulgent to do something as frivolous as making art. After all, it wasn't going to add to her family's coffers, she had never really made much money at it, and while she would like to attend my on-line Collage Camp, she just couldn't bring herself to justify such a thing. Now the fact that she was writing me to tell me that, told me that this was more about convincing herself of the validity of her selflessness than it was about explaining her decision to me. I, for one, was not convinced by her argument.

If there was ever a time for mankind and womankind to honor their creative selves it is now. In art we find the, freedom of expression, a way to take our fears and angst and let it all out. But there is more than that. When I feel overwhelmed by the world I like to look at art for starters, which almost always shoots "artdreneline" through my body, leading me to create something of my own. But it starts with looking at the art others have made. Helen Frankenthaler makes paint dance across canvas, DeKooning's "Women" make me chuckle and be glad I am not one of his girls, Pollock, before he dripped was a Bi-Polar wonder to behold and O'Keeffe makes me fly up through the holes in her desert bones and come back to earth more in love with color than I was before I took flight. Robert Rauschenberg just makes me as joyful looking at his collages as he was making them. He died a couple of months ago, no doubt with a smile on his face and an idea in his head. Most of these artists lived through World Wars and a Great Depression. Thank God they never thought that when times are gloomy they should stop doing something as self-centered as Art. Sometimes looking at art is the thing that fills me with hope and keeps me focused on forward motion.

Not everything I make in my studio is intended to sell and I certainly don't need to validate these things that I do that are for the pure pleasure of doing. I look at an empty fruit crate and feel an obligation to make it into a shrine of color and texture, giving it life beyond what it seemed destined to experience when it lay in a pile of "stuff" on the side of my studio. I am not being self-centered, I am being God-centered. I believe we are created in God's image and therefore we who have been given a vision to make something out of nothing must CREATE. It's what He did. He set the example. I follow. Create. Create. Create. In the first few pages of the Bible it was pretty much what He did. The Ultimate Artist. So how can I possibly think that there is ever a time when I can feel bad about being an Artist. I like to think that on the seventh day he rested...because he had created what he set out to create and from that point on He was turning it over to us.


Angie at Free Rein said...

Amen! Tonight on our local news there was a story about this being the time when we should look inside ourselves to find a job. There were several examples of people that were enjoying life like never before because they were doing for a living what they did best, using their God-given talents.

Erin in Morro Bay said...

Brava! An excellent essay on why, in troubled times, art is even more important. To paraphrase "Art gets you through times without money, better than money gets you through times without art".
And thanks for showing my absolute favourite Rauschenberg. A couple of months ago I was in San Francisco, went to the MOMA and got to spend as much time as I wanted just looking at this wonderful piece.


Tristan Robin Blakeman said...

excellent response. brava and amen.

She said that in the hard times we find ourselves going through in our country, she found it rather self-indulgent to do something as frivolous as making art.what outcome did she think her message was going to produce? was she chastising you? did she think she was going to open your eyes and you would realize you weren't an artist any longer because the country is in a depression?

I know that in my life I've been bored - and, no doubt, boring. But I hope I never get so bored that I feel the need to contact strangers on the internet and think they should 'come 'round' to my way of thinking.


Sandra @ Thistle Cove Farm said...

She believes what she said to be true so, in her mind, it's a valid argument. I think she stopped thinking too soon, however, as there are many ways of being creative. If she doesn't have the money...and many, many people don't have money for other than food, shelter, clothing in these difficult times, she still can do small things...for herself and her family...with great love. Mother Theresa was right then and she's still right today.
Paper egg cartons and a bit of soil scratched from the earth can be the start of sunflower seeds; some construction paper the start of beautiful note cards especially when pasted with pressed flowers gathered from the roadside. A note written and drawn with colorful ink can lift a friend's day.
The list is, almost...virtually..., endless. Creativity doesn't begin with money, it begins between the two ears AND at the public, iow FREE, library if the space between ones' ears is, somewhat, lacking in creative thought or one needs a jump start.
It probably took great courage for her to admit she couldn't afford your class; it's painful to admit we can't spend money on something we want as opposed to something we need. Perhaps, she's being paralyzed by fear and fear kills a lot - creativity, hope, vision, sometimes it even kills love.
Please forgive me for going on and on but I sense from what you've said, she's in need of a bit of bolstering, a bit of encouragement and, perhaps, a bit of compassion.
As to God resting on the 7th day, I think it was because He wanted to enjoy the work of His hands...and think about what was coming next. -smile-
God's blessings on you, yours and the work of your hands and heart.

KC Willis said...

You have such a great heart, Sandra. The writer of that e-mail just got me to thinking abut how important art is at times like these. And it wasn't that she couldn't afford the class (I corresponded with her about it) she just felt guilty doing something she saw as self-indulgent. Her attitude simply made me reflect on my attitude towards good times and bad. :)

Lelainia N. Lloyd said...

Aren't most artist DIRT poor as a rule? I find it amusing that most folks would forsake feeding their spirit but could, at the same time thoughlessly drop $5 a day on a latte at Starbucks.

I think if you really want something badly enough, you can find a way to make it happen. We make excuses when we feel guilty about giving ourselves permission to do what really makes us happy and fulfilled. LIke Nike says, "Just DO it!"

Lattes for a week or skills for a lifetime? It's all about choices. Personally, I think I am a better investment than Starbucks is.

*Not made as any sort of judgement against your writer- this is simply my thoughts about art in times of trouble.

Thistle Cove Farm said...

Good Morning KC - please, I wasn't being critical of how you responded for I feel your points were valid, well thought out and well written. My heart simply heard other tones present, either from her or from others in similar positions. I am sorry she feels your class is "self-indulgent". One hard, difficult lesson I learned while taking care of my 95 year old MIL is, take care of the care giver, yourself, FIRST. Unfortunately, it took many opportunities to learn this lesson but, eventually, it did sink in...a little -smile-.
We have to take care of ourselves first before we can, effectively, gracefully take care of others. We must be, carefully, tended, fed and watered before we bear positive fruit.
Thank you for your kind compliment; I do try but some times I'm just trying -smile-.
I agree with Lelainia except I believe I'm a better investment than just about anything. Again, it gets back to taking care of oneself so we can take care of whatever ways we're given opportunity. It is all about choices...making wise ones that have permanent, positive impacts on our lives and the lives of others.

Carol Sloan said...

Amen! Preach it sister!

Halo Hill said...

Oh my gosh, KC! Right on! I couldn't agree more with you! I hope and pray she'll "get it". I had a friend tell me at dinner last night that my art is my ministry. Long story, but there seems to always be a word, a number, a symbol, a pattern... that speak to the person who buy them. I can't tell you how many times I've had someone say (especially in custom pieces from people I don't even know) "how did you know?" "you couldn't have known my son's birth year, it gave me certainty from God that he was going to make it through his injuries, I had almost given up... I was begging God for an answer and when your charm arrived there was his birth year and I was given new hope." It happens all the time. It happened again last night, and we were all moved to tears. I hope this lady finally "gets it" about art, but since she reached out to YOU, I know that she will.


Anonymous said...

Well said!

The Junkin' Yaya said...

Girlfriend...couldn't have said it better! xo...deb

The Rustic Victorian said...

Maby she just need a little prayer...."and" load of chocolate, "and" some loving arms around her to let her know it will be alright..."and" go have a good belly laughing dance around the house,,,"and"....well, you get the picture. My goodness. Amen and Amen to all the comments. Life is about choices. I choose to fly like you all....isn't it wonderful.

The Feathered Nest said...

Hi sweetie...just a quick note to let you know I blogged about the giveaway...but didn't want to comment again on the post ~ thanks so much KC, I'll talk to you on Friday! xxoo, Dawn