I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my art since I’ve been laid up with all these injuries.
I’ve come to the conclusion that maybe it isn’t really “real” art after all.
“Real” artists seem to have different reasons than I do for making their art. They see themselves as explorers, or pioneers–exploring new ideas, new techniques, new venues, new styles. It’s the new, new, new that calls them and excites them. They have profound social themes to explore and comment upon.
It can be beautiful, exciting stuff, even provocative stuff.
But that’s never been what my work is about. I can’t even imagine myself working like that.
My “next idea” and “new body of work” has always–always–come from a very different place and process.
It comes from something calling out to me to be made. It feels intensely personal and even idiosyncratic.
It comes from a desire to make something special for someone who asked for it, or needed it.
Sometimes it comes by chance. Sometimes by challenge.
Rarely (if ever!) by imposing some kind of artistic, intellectual discipline. Yes, it came to me first by study and introspection. But that was when I was so truly lost, I had no way to even begin. I had to work to even find a place to stand.
It’s not really like that now. I just momentarily lost faith in that path. But I never really left that path, nor do I care to now.
It’s time to trust my process again. I must simply make the things I like to make. I must simply accept the reasons I make it.
I must let go of the reasons why I “should” make something else. They just don’t apply to me.
I think my art, for me, is a metaphor.
It’s the power of my choices made visible in the world.
My art (I include my writing) is a way to work through the issues in my life. It helps me determine what kind of person I am, and what kind of person I want to be. It helps me find a way to come back from failure. It helps me deal with fear and insecurity.
It’s not even necessarily how I do those things successfully. I’m a work in progress, after all! I am all too aware of my shortcomings and short sightedness in the world….
Sometimes those are concrete issues I’ve struggled with: How do I create a craft show booth that showcases my work to its best advantage (and is also easy to ship, set-up and break down?) How do I get my work into stores and galleries? How do I get my work published?
But other times (like the last few months) it’s working through more personal issues: How do deal with injury and pain? How do I justify what I do in the world? How do I tell my story in ways that other people can relate to?
Through it all, I think, shines my process. How to think about it. If I can do this, maybe you can, too. If I can figure this out, then maybe you can, too. If I get discouraged and am afraid, maybe it’s okay when you feel that, too.
It’s about learning. It’s about listening. It’s about healing. It’s about choosing.
If I think about which article on my work gives me the most pause, it would have to be the one Ornament Magazine ran in the Winter 2003 issue: my artist statement on 9/11. You can see a version of this statement here.
That’s what my art is about.
Maybe some people do not consider this to be true “art”. Maybe it’s more that shaman thing. That used to frighten me more than figuring out the business side of things. Not so much, anymore…
I’ve come to the conclusion that my art is fine just the way it is.
When I can work again, I have a lot of requests to fill. I need to figure out how to incorporate a new sea otter figurine into a necklace for a woman who needs a little fun and relief from her extraordinary burdens. I need to make a good fish bracelet for a woman who’s fighting for her life. I need to make a bird necklace for a woman who’s ready to fly. I have a repair or two to make, for customers who wore their piece til it fell apart. I have an order or two to fill.
I do feel like a shaman when I look at that list–making lovely things for others on their journey.
That’s not too shabby, either.