I was twelve. My school was at a local theater, doing rehearsals for the annual variety concert - I was to be performing my first vocal solo.
There was a lunch break and we kids were outside, in a playground, playing as kids do. I heard a young girl crying - she was in a swing and two of the older boys were pushing her hard to make her swing higher. She was scared, because she couldn't get away, and she couldn't get them to stop. The swing was on solid railings, so I ran over, pushed the boys away, and stopped the swing dead with one arm - and broke it.
The young girl was so shocked by my scream of pain, she stopped crying.
The boys ran away.
And I did my first performance with a broken arm.
The end......but not really.
I could tell a hundred tales of times when I've rushed in to defend someone, to give safe harbour, to take a punch for someone else, to stand guard over them while they pack what they own in a box, kicked out of their home by a partner - you can't look at the world where this happens, and not feel something. And not continue to do something about it.
The one thing all of these events have in common is my 'scream' - it stops everyone in their tracks, it makes them stop and think, it makes them reconsider their actions - and what they will do next. Whether it's an actual scream, of rage, defiance, or the expression on my face, or a single word - it all has the same effect.
People have reached a point where they're unwilling to get involved in domestic violence now, until the person concerned has made the move out - not surprising, they're usually the first person to defend the rights of their abuser, and they usually keep going back to them.
Notice I say person - women aren't the only ones to get hurt.
It's not simple, and it's not easy for someone to walk away from that situation. They return and repeat for a multitude of reasons that aren't easily standardized and catalogued like a shopping list in a psych manual. No one is a textbook profile, because no one is a flat sheet of paper with typing on it. It's complex, and emotional, and terrifying, and too complicated to become a theoretical construct. So I make it simple - I jump in, 'scream' and stop everything. When a relationship has gone that far, it's personal, it's so personal that another person interrupting the movie is a shock. The violence is as intimate as making love - imagine someone jumping into your bed and yelling 'HEY!' - talk about a mood killer.
I had coffee with someone with a black eye today. The moment to jump in and scream was over, gone, I wasn't there. So we talked. And I realized something today that I already knew but hadn't really used before - it's the intimacy that connects people to these situations. Take away all the constructs and the policies and the philosophies that civilization has created, and come back to the human level - it's intimacy. Something that you can't share with anyone but that special someone. And often as not, it's a lack of intimate acceptance of the self that drives a person to look for that in someone else. The first relationship is with the self, it's where all other relationships begin. As soon as you deliver that possibility to a person, they see fulfillment in their grasp - a way to achieve what they want without needing the circumstances to reflect that want. As soon as they see it - they're already saving themselves.
13 January 2011
So true. With the multitude of goings on in daily life, sometimes it's an absolute trial to focus and get into work.
It seems counter-productive on the surface to instead go and do something to restore my spirits, but the fact is, if I don't go play and get into that frame of mind, the art will suffer. And suffer, and suffer.
I'm a very emotionally-based artist - I source my imagery directly from the emotional places that I inhabit, and that can get tricky when life throws me a curve ball. Life isn't designed for a prolonged emotional state, there are too many things that change from moment to moment, and then here's me constantly living in the attempt to sustain one set of feelings for six to twelve weeks. It can be viewed as temperamental, but I believe it's one of the greatest reasons that artists often find themselves outside of normal life - because we have to travel to places inside ourselves that allow us to work, places normal life wouldn't necessarily require us to go.
Whenever I've worked on a long-term project or large composition, the people around me often notice that I'm off-beat, not my usual self. Often, it's because I've gone into realms inside myself that aren't necessarily easy, and it's hard work to maintain a normal life under those conditions, so the personality is subdued or pensive, because I'm busy sustaining a sense of the world that I'm working in. While the results may seem uplifting and beautiful, creating them takes more than that sensory experience. Sometimes it means a complete re-arranging of the interior mental furniture. The real beauty of it is when the audience responds exactly the way I want them to - it makes it all worth it. Which keeps me doing it all over again....
The beauty of these designs is that they can fit into every day life very easily. While they still carry the integrity of the rest of my work, realization as stickers and tshirts is just as exciting to me! Framed work that I've spent months is terrifically satisfying, but that doesn't kill the buzz I get out of seeing the smaller designs take on life too....
And I get to create my own superheroes and stuff - that's always cool.
The other magical aspect of the sticker empire is the
marvellous expansion of my larger compositions finding new life in new forms. While many of them are not suited to life as a tshirt, the option to create a sticker is even better than ACEOs in my view. It may not be as prestigious, but I see a folder with stickers all over it, I want to have a look, I want to see what a person is into, what their tastes are. When real art gets to see the light of day, represent a person's personality, when it's not hidden in a museum or gallery, when it becomes a part of an identity - now that's really cool.
06 January 2011
When there is no judgement, no question of what the end result will be, nothing but the focus on the story of the moment, the process, the travel that happens on the inside, I find myself devoid of performance anxiety, and social questions, and all the constructs that box people in and forget how to be without limits. In that space, I don't care what people think - I care what they will feel.
Fantasy art succeeds when it moves people beyond thought, when it transports them into a moment without reality. In that moment, they may find things that humour them, frighten them, uplift them or even make them sad - but it's emotion in motion in the moment. That's where I as the artist have to begin, in order to share it. The more I learn about the qualities of passion in myself, while having to be still, the more I understand what it is that I want to transfer to the art. It's not about understanding myself - it's about translating the intangible into an image, and giving it feeling. The further I reach into myself, the greater the impact of the image as a return.
But y'know, it's kind of spooky in there.....