Monday, May 11, 2009
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 obvious...beauty, 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.