Posted by: innerpilgrimage | June 7, 2011

What Kind of Secret Artist Am I, Are You?

      “But I’m not an artist.”

      I have heard that so many times, that limiting statement which people use to excuse themselves from the process of creation. Perhaps it has to do with the rules people put down about what art is and is not. Art, like connecting to the spiritual, has no real rules. Art cannot be treated like religion, like a job (even if some people find a way to exchange their soul-inspired creative endeavors for the means to meet core survival requirements). I think we all have art within us–even if we are a secret artist.
      I’m not much of a secret artist. I write, and the creation of a document to entertain or inform is art. Like Artur Schnabel, it’s not the DOing of the letters I type but the BEing in the spaces between those words which make the difference. However, I do have “secret art” within me, untapped creation in the form of art I wish to do.
      I used to paint, draw, and sculpt. In college, I started out as a Fine Arts major. Then I entered the hallowed rooms where art dogma was taught, where art became a religion instead of a personal spiritual journey. I stopped painting. I stopped drawing. I stopped sculpting. The demand for me to “make a living” (How does one “make” a living? One either is alive today or one is haunting today from yesterday and/or tomorrow!) at it drew me from those traditional forms. Even then, I found the application of the mundane purpose to acquire abhorrent when it came to the divine purpose to create.
      I consider creation and destruction to be part of our connection to the divinity. We become part of the natural order of things when we create or destroy. We use our focused energy to begin or end or both. Creating something is as important as clearing a space for things to be created. It is what is infused in the process that brings us to that source of the spiritual, of the divine.
      Words are a difficult medium to paint with. Like all other forms of artistic endeavors, the limiting beliefs of the observer affect us. Art is quantum theory in action. The observer can determine future outcomes in the most subtle of ways. As an artist seeking to exchange art for the core requirements of life (and abundance, as well), one finds that the arbitrary seeking-of-the-divine of people who often hoard mundane abundance can suck the divine from the creation. It can even stop the creation process.
      Turning art into a business clips the wings of angels. It grounds those who soar and traps them in straitjackets which have the illusion of not having buckles to bind the arms behind them. It, in essence, sucks the divinity from art and makes it about physical and ego-survival. It becomes about conflict, about rules, about dogma.
      When a person says, “I’m not an artist,” it’s essentially saying, “I have no soul.” But I believe we all have that spark within us, simply by our natures. If we can observe our thoughts and question our intentions (which all of us can)? Then we are ensouled. To have the ability to step out of the perceptions of the ego is the action of stepping from the mundane into the divine. And within the divine, we are all artists.
      Some of us just let the mundane dogma get in the way of creation.
      When I was a child, I lived and breathed art. It was a divine gift my mother gave me, despite her own dogmatic rules about the shoulds, woulds, and coulds of life. The pain of her conflicting divine nature against the maelstrom of the mundane led her to absent herself from life. She loved deeply; I see that now. She suffered, as well, and she passed that gift down to me. I knew no better as a young child, assigning her the status of perfect deity. After all, she provided for me. She was the gatekeeper to my survival once-upon-a-time. She was a secret artist, cutting out little paper houses and elephants to entertain a preschooler. She just did not hold the strong opinion that her creations had value. Her next gift, art appreciation, came from a dual desire to touch the divine in herself (to be inspired by artists) even as she limited herself to mundane dogma (the artists who culture agreed were worthy to have works displayed in museums). She did rebel at times–our home had multiple works by David Gilhooly, an artist local to my hometown who regularly had yard sales to fund supporting the mundane needs and wants of ex-wives. Neighborhood children wondered about the warped warm-hued ceramic devil frog sitting on a silvery-gray kiln filled with little spring-green frogs, and one asked if I or my sisters had created it. Also, we had a ceramic beaver sitting in the little jungle atrium in the foyer of the family home, hiding among the living (and dying) plants there. Later in life, I worked for a man who had two more David Gilhooly pieces in his house–I saw a clock made of acrylic with increasingly fatter ticks as the hours waxed, and I personally dusted a sculpture entitled “Food Descending a Staircase” when I cared for that one-time employer’s home. The whimsical nature of Gilhooly’s “funk art” creations was pure inspiration for me. Childish imagination and adult skill combined to create playful and cartoonish art which inspired me countless times.
      That was a gift my mother gave me.
      My father was a strange man to me. Out in the world, he was a humanitarian, a healer, a person who devoted his life to living a solution of relieving human suffering in order to allow the healing process to grow. Yearly, at Christmas, at least a half-dozen people I had never met gave him heartfelt thanks in Christmas cards and gifts. Once, a person glowed about how wonderful it must be to have him as my father. I did not understand, for he molded himself into a totalitarian dictator at home. Perfect was not enough (he held himself to that standard always, therefore we all had to achieve what he could not–being human). And to be imperfect brought corrective behavior. He had ideas of what art should be, as well, even as he collected the childish and whimsical art of David Gilhooly.
      Both of my parents were “secret artists”. My father’s medium was film. His photographs are beautiful. He worked both in color and in black-and-white. We even had photo-developing equipment hidden away in the cabinets of the laundry room, which sometimes was converted to a darkroom. Today, my father makes videographic travelogues, an amateur PBS travel documentarian who takes pictures and voices over the histories of locations and the cultural subtleties. A one-man production crew, it reflects an individual effort over a team effort of people who have honed their skills to one small piece of a larger puzzle. But he does it, and his travelogues are always a delight for his co-travelers to receive once he has finished editing the hours of film and has drafted the script, recorded it, then added it to the travelogue. So my father is a healer, a reliever of suffering. And he is a photographer and videographer–an artist of multiple abilities. His healing gave our family mental and physical abundance. I was able to hoard food on my body, and my body reflected that. I was given the gift of superior education, and I rejected that gift. I chose to fail because the gift came with strings attached–instead of being encouraged to perform to the best of my ability and be accepted for it? Performance was conflict, and I did not have the heart to rebel. So, I set up a failure-cycle. And, when I was drawn to art as a profession, the demand was for me to become a world-famous artist . . . or at least a commercial artist whose works created personal abundance.
      I rejected fine arts, a regret I have to this day. I have souvenirs of a time when I created and my product was rejected. Graded. Set into a little box because of my personality. Criticized. Treated like a mundane combination of paint and canvas, of charcoal (or graphite, or wax-and-pigment) and wood-pulp, of clay, of plaster. The form I infused made no difference. The images which were transferred from within did not matter. I was judged wanting, and my inner fine artist was executed publicly–my name to be scratched from the record as an artist.
      I began to write for me, and I have held my writing apart because of my history with the divine creation of art being rendered mundane by observers. Subjective was ordained objective, and I ate up the lie because I gave my power to people. I selected a life of inferiority, and even today I fear to pick up the Christmas gift of acrylic paints and apply them to the blank canvases. I have books of art paper which lay blank and white, fields of bleached snow waiting to be transformed by the huge box of colored pencils or smaller box of graphite pencils. I have erasers; I have blending sticks. I have a gorgeous Mabef travel easel meant for plein-aire painting. I have the tools of an artist waiting, hidden away like my creative soul. I am a secret fine-artist, my Gnostic inspirations held within me for fear I will be tortured again and burned alive for the heresy of “not being good enough”. So, the pages and canvases stay pristine, and I keep the paintings and drawings inside me, unwilling to allow others to observe the museum within.
      I accepted the gift of criticism from observers instead of rejecting it and becoming an artist anyway. That is what a fine artist does, in my mind. He or she nods as observers lay down rules and shoulds and woulds and coulds about their respective souls. He or she still creates anyway.
      How many people have accepted the gift of criticism about their art? How many children left the divine within, hoarded it for fear of being offered the gift of criticism when they so longed for approval and acceptance? How many people who were destined to artistic greatness now lean over desks dreaming of days long ago when the process was more important than the product?
      All of us.
      For me, art is not limited to what can be hung on walls or stood in rooms or gardens of museums. The collections in museums are arbitrary, based on people whose personal inspiration was killed in a dogmatic art inquisition as malevolent as the Spanish Inquisition. To seek the spiritual outside of the rules leaves us scrambling to survive. And those people who gave up rendering their divine selves on canvases, in clay, on photographic paper, in colored fabrics and yarns, in glass, on music paper, in . . . oh, whatever creative medium possible? Many did not abandon the dream of inspiration. Instead, they found it within the BEing of others and funded it with their DOing.
      I am not against museums. I, personally, had the opportunity to see a Brancusi Bird in Space and was so moved by the form that I was transported out of time. The Picassos behind me surely did the same for other people, but I found divine inspiration in that sculpture and its memory of how the light changed over it as I walked around it, how it flowed into the world as a metal rendition of the energy of life as exemplified in motion (not even frozen in time for me). I was never much for museums–possibly out of resentment that these artists were “approved of” and “appreciated” and I was not and held the strong opinion that I could never be.
      But that Brancusi bird? I could have spent days watching it, standing and circling it to experience the lightness of being in metal.
      Those among us who are lifted by music (any music), who are lifted by images (any images), who are lifted by the written word (any written word) are artists. We may leave our own creations hidden away in our darkened inner museums, but we are still artists.
      This is where I challenge myself. Those blank pages of sketchbooks are the potential waiting to happen. It may not be considered uplifting to others, but to be an artist? One accepts the humility that it’s not between the observer and the artist. It is between the artist and the source of inspiration. To birth art in the world, those blank pages of potential must be destroyed to make way for the practice of creation. Those gessoed canvasses are waiting for paint to be applied in whatever means possible. The beads beg to be strung; the hemp cord and even some of the colored embroidery floss asks to be knotted into wearable art (the rest of the colored embroidery floss wants to be applied to the blank Aida cloth and waste canvas pinned to shirts). There is the potential of creation all around me, and the only medium I am brave enough to create in are words.
      Why words? Because words are between me and my Higher Power, and they are divine to me–even as others might consider what I write to be meritless and not worth the space on the WordPress server.
      They have value to me, however. These words are part of a greater tapestry (also art) of a life being lived, of the evolution of thought and inspiration, of the change of a body consigned to a prison of food addiction being released from that prison. It may not be well-written, but well-written is not the point. It is life as it is, snapshots of a human DOing trying to wake up to her human BEing.
      It is the notes of a symphony played out in sounds and silences, of electrons translated into the cryptic shapes which form words and spaces between those words which impart meaning to some and are lost on others. But just because some people are not inspired by what I write does not mean it has no value.
      Collective intellectual consensus has no place in the spiritual journey. The “other” deserves no input into a rich inner-and-outer life they cannot experience personally. If I blurt out something onto paper or canvas or even here in my journal? It is still between me and my Higher Power. If it inspires a person to embrace his or her inner artist with love? Then I hope that the embrace leads to the destruction of fear and of infinite possibilities in order to create a journey of courage and a finite piece of art.
      It does not have to do anything. It just has to be.
      My name is Jess, and I am a food addict and approval addict. Not sure if any of this made sense, but it’s okay. I hope that today, everyone gets a chance to feel the artist within and bring something from the inner museum to the outer world–birthed without the dogmatic rules of would-should-could.


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