Friday, May 13, 2011

thank you for the inspiration

To the artists/musicians/dancers/creative types who inspire me:

"I am an agent of change. I am here in this life to be change, inspire change and facilitate change, as well as to make change. I'm an influential leader by example, through being/having the courage to change and to live to manifest my visions/dreams. This is my destiny, it's what I do. It's my job to hold space and intention for others to manifest their visions, and then to step back and let the changes take on their own momentum. I build momentum where there is potential. I am comfortable in empty space, where all potential lives."--WhiteFeather, in one of her most recent blog posts

When I read those words yesterday morning, they made me think. About the artists who have inspired me over the years, how they've inspired me, and how that inspiration plays out in my own work. And it made me want to write an open thank-you letter to those people for their inspiration (I'll name names later).

I remember a few years back (when I was maybe eighteen, nineteen, twenty) I was incredibly inspired by artists whose work was a bit (some more than a bit) unconventional. But although I've been an artist literally since I can remember, when I started selling my work (which was around that time), I kept hearing, "don't do art like that--it won't sell." I desperately wanted to do "art like that," but by that point, I had been so well trained to do the opposite, to veto any really crazy/out-there ideas, that I felt I had no choice but to admit defeat.

And I had to settle for looking longingly at the work of people like Picasso, Dalí, Pollock: people who went ahead with their crazy ideas, didn't give a frick about what other people thought--and ended up changing the world. That's what art is: it's always changing; it isn't static. And we artists are always at least five steps (usually more) ahead of the rest of the human species. I wanted to be in that club: to come up with crazy-awesome ideas and actually do them. But no: I was told that they wouldn't sell, and most of what I saw around me, anyway, was tame, "I'm not out to shake things up" work.

But all that changed when I became a college kid. All of a sudden, I had tons of new, exciting ideas about creativity and what it means to be an artist being thrown at me, starting in the first semester of my first year.

  • WhiteFeather was teaching my Communication and Student Success class (after she and Adam MacDonald switched classes), and that was when I got my first taste of her kind of creativity. Here was someone who was doing the exact kind of thing that that I was into, and wanted to create: art that wasn't out there to be safe; art that was out there to provoke, to make the viewer think; art that people weren't guaranteed to like--some would like it (I'm in that camp), and some would want to look away.
  • Denise Richard was teaching my Creative Process class. She was actually the first person to tell me that I was "too timid" (those were her exact words: "you're too timid") about my work. And she was bang on: I was. I had years of conditioning behind me, that was working against me and preventing me from going all the way with a crazy idea (at best I went half-way--and I'm not surprised that I got a D in that class).
  • And Adam was my academic adviser. I'll never forget the moment when I first laid eyes on his work, in the spring of my FVA year. As I've said to several people, his work always sends my head for a spin--and I love that. And he's fairly local (he's from Antigonish, Nova Scotia): he's not doing his thing in the US or somewhere in Europe, he's here in New Brunswick. Knocking our socks off. Ditto for WhiteFeather and Denise.
But it wasn't until the second semester that those ideas started to catch up with me. And when they did, it was in a big way. I'll never forget walking home from my history class one night, and debating with myself about art--one half of me saying, "go for it! do that crazy stuff you want to do! you're in the perfect spot (art college) in which to do that sort of thing! what have you got to lose?," the other half of me saying, "but there's no place for that kind of work! it wouldn't sell. the way I'm doing things right now is the way I should be doing them, and it's all I've ever known." And on, and on, and on as I walked home. Can you say, "messed up!"

After March Break, I set up a meeting with Adam, and over the next few weeks, began the slow process of freeing myself from the old ideas. Although I still recognize and acknowledge those ideas, I no longer let them hold me back--though I realize that I still have a long way to go (thanks to the head of NBCCD's photography studio, Peter Gross, for making me realize that). But I'm thoroughly enjoying the process.

That's what art is to me, anyway: while getting to the end is fun (I get to look at what I've created), to me, art is more about the process of creating said art. So I know that a change like that (actually creating the art that I dream of, and not just dreaming of it) will take a long time--years, even. I'm having to reorganize my whole way of viewing creativity, and what I can and cannot do, what ideas I should and shouldn't consider, and how I should go about making those ideas a reality.

To wrap things up (finally): again, THANK YOU! MERCI! GRAZIE! GRACIAS! DANK! DANKE! 謝謝 (simplified: 谢谢)!

You've been waiting long enough:

The Names:

Denise Richard
Adam MacDonald
Monica Lacey
Jessica Reid
Rachael Flett
Anne-Marie Rolfe
Roger Flanagan
Rosie Hardy
Brigid Marz
Ashley Lebedev
Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir
Jackson Pollock
Salvadore Dalí
Pablo Picasso
Martha Graham
Modern dancers
Performance artists
André Rieu
Green Day
Lady Gaga
Blue Man Group
Ani DiFranco 
Arcade Fire
Indie musicians
Philip Glass
John Adams (the composer)
Ludwig van Beethoven
Gene Nichols
Joe Penna (MysteryGuitarMan)

Love to you all (and keep the inspiration coming),

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