I'm slowly working my way through an interesting book and wanted to talk about it. “Art and Fear- Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking”- by David Bayles and Ted Orland.
The book was recommended and I bought it thinking how in the world are these two items related. I have never had any conscious fears around art making but decided it would be interesting to read what the authors had to say.
I’ve read a few minutes in bed right before I start to drift. A page or two while I eat lunch. It has me thinking a lot about what I do, what I say, the verbiage I use, the why...
Every time I read something that strikes a chord and I want to revisit I fold the page... I've folded a lot of pages!
There is one page in particular I would love to chat about. It reads, “ARTMAKING HAS BEEN AROUND LONGER THAN THE ART ESTABLISHMENT. Through most of history, the people who made art never thought of themselves as making art. In fact it’s quite presumable that art was being made long before the rise of consciousness, long before the pronoun “I” was ever employed…”
Reading on, it continues, “What this suggests, among other things, is that the current view equating art with “self-expression” reveals more a contemporary bias in our thinking than an underlying trait of the medium. Even the separation of art from craft is largely a post- Renaissance concept, and more recent still is the notion that art transcends what you do, and represents what you are. In the past few centuries Western art has moved from unsigned tableaus of orthodox religious scenes to one-person displays of personal cosmologies. “Artist” has gradually become a form of identity which (as every artist knows) often carries with it as many drawbacks as benefits. Consider that if artist equals self, then when (inevitably) you make flawed art, you are a flawed person, and when (worse yet) you make no art, you are no person at all!”
The part that really struck me and felt so familiar… Consider that if artist equals self, then when (inevitably) you make flawed art, you are a flawed person, and when (worse yet) you make no art, you are no person at all!
When you make no art, you are no person at all!
Having had periods of time with little to no making (usually during a pregnancy or immediately following) I know this feeling. I feel I’m just not me. I’m still me as a vessel, but not me as part of a greater whole.
Somehow for me, each little mark or every little squiggle creates a connection. Almost like a synapse. Brush to paper passes a signal, hand to clay another. Every creative act for me plugging in and passing info on to a larger system that somehow in turn feeds back to me.
I teach a class called Story Circles and it talks a lot about mandalas and art as a means of self expression and self connection. I now realize I need better verbiage, different words.
I need to say it’s not self expression for self expression sake. It’s not about expressing one’s self for others to see or hear or comment on. It is expressing one’s self as evidence you exist, as evidence that any of us do. It’s about expressing one’s self in order to connect back to the “you” you recognize or maybe the “you” you don’t yet know. In connecting to yourself, plugging in to something larger. It’s about union!
This whole post is a little rambling. I’m still looking for the right words. Mostly I’m curious… What do you think? Why do you create?