I’ve been pondering the subject of artists this week. What is an artist? Can anyone be an artist? Are we all capable of being artistic? I fear today’s post may reflect the ramblings in my mind and there being so much in there on this subject, I can’t possible relate it all in one sitting.
When I look at the subject of art, I see creative expression. But to truly be art it must allow itself to be viewed by others…to be exchanged or appreciated. It is the complexities of this point that I find most fascinating.
An artist seems to go through different phases of creative expression which I am arbitrarily going to assign as follows:
- vision, idea or concept in the mind
- connecting that to the physical universe through the use of matter
- Actually producing that idea
- refining, editing or correcting the product – finishing touches, so to speak
- sharing the product with the world
Some people are really good at moving through these stages while others are not. There is something truly magnificent about a person who has an idea and then just whips it our, right then and there. I do envy this type.
For many of us, some of the above stages are easier than others and we mechanically work through the difficult ones. But, for the shy person, the inhibited or the self conscious, that final phase might be the make break point of artistic expression. You see, an artist invariable releases a little bit of himself through his art and it is easy to confuse the rejection of one’s art being, literally, the rejection of oneself. Encouragement, mentoring and even opportunity can help get through this barrier. But, in all fairness, any coaching has to include handling potential rejection and criticism. For if a person can’t steel himself from the critic or the nay sayer, then all the wonderful encouragement is done for naught.
An artist has to learn to be vulnerable. After all, the artist pours his heart and soul into something and then holds it up for the world to see, knowing that the world might see it differently. It might be unappreciated or given a bad review such as “worst ever”…that’s gotta hurt. On the other hand, the joy and elation the artist feels when someone gets them or connects to what they created in some special way, that joy has the potential to erase all of the earlier negative encounters. It’s that halleluiah moment, when the artist and the world achieve that perfect connection. Though it last mere second, in real time, its affect can last a lifetime.
One of my students was a boy named Jeff. He was a likable boy, got along well with others but he was always a little bit shy and didn’t initiate much. One summer he got interested in break dance and had been attending classes but never mentioned it to anyone at school. At the end of summer school we had a talent show and Jeff decided that he was going to do one of his dances. So, he gets out this giant boom box and starts this hip hop/rap tune and does his thing. Every student had their jaw hanging on the floor. Not only was he really good at it, he surprised everyone with something that seemed so uncharacteristic to him, so extroverted and so modernly current. This instantly rocketed him up to being one of the coolest kids in school and from that day on, his shyness was gone.
My own experience…in my teens, my school offered a class in Modern Dance to which I found an immediate attraction. I loved the idea of using your body for creative expression. It was the tops in my world…really, like Cinderella on the ballroom floor. During that class I got to choreograph a dance and what I came up with, I thought was so good and clever…I was besides myself. I created a dance to the theme of The Pink Panther. Not knowing anything abut being an artist, I did it for my own sheer pleasure and enjoyment. I loved it then and I love it now.
We performed it and had a lot of fun and went on to other things, that was the end of my creative dance phase. But, ten years down the road, having married and had a child, I found one of my old school acquaintances had moved down the street from me. In the hello, how are you doing chit chat, she tells me how great a dancer I was and how much she enjoyed my dance performances. Instantly, that feeling of pure happiness surge through my being…someone got it!
It was then, that I realized that ones work as an artist can have a latent effect. That realization was reinforced years later when I visited the Library of Congress and was surrounded by the artist who created it over a hundred years ago. (For anyone visiting the DC area, I highly recommend that you visit the Library of Congress. It is one of the city’s best kept secrets, truly stunning in every sense of the word.) As I walked through each room in complete awe of the work of earlier artists I couldn’t help but feel that I had been magically transformed onto another plane. From floor to ceiling, the sculptors, painters and masons of the world took my breath away. Even the walls were ordained with great literary quotes from leaders of the past. And to make this moment even more so ethereal, is the history connected to it such as the uncovering of exquisite murals when cleaning the soot covered walls during the renovations period…and so much more.
As I mentioned, I have many more thoughts on the subject of art and could go on and on but for now I will be content that art, created by the artist, is what gives us the little pitter-patter in our heart as we go through day to day life. It touches us and moves us through an array of emotions. It gives us a feeling, that for a moment, through the artists expression, that some inner feeling or emotion has been duplicated and we feel understood. That the quality of understanding makes us feel bigger, more worldly that we felt just moments before, a higher plane being achieved.
And then there is the artists power to heal which I will explore in a future post.
Have you, as an artist been able to touch someone in a memorable way? Have you been notably moved by another’s creation?