Today I went to the monthly gathering of our little art group of five women (see www.ArtwiseWomen.blogspot.com.) We met in a little cafe in White River Junction and afterwards went to Kathy Fiske's studio at the Tip Top building to see her new work. Normally we begin by each one checking in - telling what's new in our lives and what work we've been doing lately. Then we continue our discussion with whatever topic emerges from the mix.
What surfaced this time was a discussion of the importance of living creatively. So often we become concerned about our output: what am I producing? Is it enough? Is it new? Can I sell it? Am I evolving? How can I market my work?... and so on. Yet this kind of thinking only makes us feel driven - driven by something hard and unnatural - like working in school for grades instead of learning, or focusing one's business plan on short term profit instead of long term good. The life and spirit begins to drain out of one's art this way.
Instead, we mused, one should strive to embrace life with joy and purpose -allow ourselves to live creatively, to open our eyes and see the world, to reach out and take the joy in front of us, to be playful in our attitude toward our work. Being playful doesn't mean one can't be serious. Working hard doesn't have to be punitive.
One in our group told of an incident as a resident at the Vermont Studio Center last year. Artists could open their work to other professionals who would critique it. The first few people who looked at her colorful pieces remarked, "Where is the suffering; where is the pain?"
Who ordained that to be an artist one has to suffer? Is the world's suffering the only part of life that art can reflect and still have meaning? Indeed, there is much suffering in life - but much of it is self-inflicted. For my part, I am weary of focusing on the suffering. I am enthralled with the beauty, the majesty, the delicate complexity of nature, with the sometimes fleeting moments of sweetness in the world. It is what moves me and moves my art.
"Oh, but your art is so... decorative." This is another concept we talked about between sips of iced coffee, tea, and ginger. "Decorative" is a dirty word in some art circles - in the same way that "craft" is seen as a step lower than fine art. Such drivel. For eons art's purpose was decoration. Civilizations are heavy with monuments and buildings full of ornament. What is Paris, after all, but the most beautifully decorated city in the world?
I believe one's art is informed by one's life and one's soul. Therefore, I see my mission in life as being awake to the beauty all around me and contributing to it as best I can: to embrace living more openly; to not be so afraid; to not close up but to allow myself to open, open, open.