A challenge to write an essay about what inspires in 2,500 characters or less led to what’s below. In this Thanksgiving week it occurred to me that it also described some of what most grateful for–Our ArtHouse 23….
Art is what makes us human. Without it we eat, sleep, build, breed and protect like other species. The small-town beauty shop owner, Truvy, in Robert Harling’s Steel Magnolias puts it another way: “The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize”. A trivialized interpretation, but the principle remains. Art belongs to humanity in every sense of the word.
In WWII thousands died to save the art. World leaders, especially the Americans, understood that in art there is an intrinsic, even if unnamable, value worth fighting for, even worth dying for. Art says who we are. It defines culture–the sum of a people–and preserves it for future cultures to build upon.
Despite the willingness of today’s society to dismiss art as frivolous there is an undeniable connection to certain objects of art that can cause cross-continental shivers. It’s a rich and powerful thing. But few feel as if they can indulge in its making–if you haven’t been branded with the word “talented” you have no business being creative.
What inspires me is turning that idea upside down and seeing the growth, confidence and wisdom pour from those who spend time creating with intention.
When I was a young child in the early ‘50’s I used to sit on the floor of the small closet in the new “TV room”. With the door slightly ajar and in that half-light, I drew on the wall. I can still see the image. It was nothing identifiable. It looked somewhat like a horse’s leg with two hooves drawn in dark crayon. Whenever I was in that room and the door to the closet was open, I could see that image under the hems of the clothes. It felt reassuring. It didn’t really matter if anyone else could see the image or identify it, or that I got in trouble for drawing on the wall. It only mattered that I was able to make those marks. I carry this feeling of “being there” to this day and I’m determined to let others know it is not reserved for the gifted or those who can “draw a straight line”.
As a painter I have come to discover that the process of creating is the microcosmic process of living. Daily decisions repeat themselves on the picture plane. Creating from a place of authenticity means being in touch with one’s center. Reflection is essential. Integrate that with a few instructions, a little practice, some sense of history and an accepting community and it becomes a spiritual experience. The product is much less important than the process. I teach art. Inspiring indeed.