Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Art, An Owl, An Egg and An Angel

As I sit here writing this, I am looking at an owl, an egg, and an angel and thinking about what art means to me personally. Broader still, I wonder what role art has in society? It is not such an easy question to answer.

I blow dust off the owl's head. It is a primitive, hand-carved brown painted owl with golden yellow eyes, and was given to me as a gift when I graduated from college 25 years ago. (Could time really pass so quickly?). As I hold the owl in my hand, I feel my friend's gentle kindness and wisdom welling up inside my heart and hear her voice in my head as if it were yesterday.

I take the egg from its bowl and think about my Ukrainian friend and her family; the kindness and patience they showed as I learned the ancient art form of Pysanky. I love the slow, meticulous process of designing an egg this way. Each color and symbol on the egg means something and, because of the way the wax is placed on the egg shell, you have to commit to the process. Even if the hot wax blotches the surface where you did not intend, you cannot simply wipe away your mistakes. You learn to live with it, understand it, adapt to it, and move on.

The angel, too, has its own history, though I received it as a gift just a few days ago. The statuette, a chiseled, simple, ivory, tan and brown piece of work, was given to me by a mentor and friend whose unwavering presence supported me through some of the roughest times of my life. The angel, with its simple form and design both reflect the generous spirit of my friend and aspects of the person I have grown to be. I cried when I opened the package.

These three items, perhaps not even "art" in the minds of some, symbolize for me what art is all about. Good art transcends the materials, the content, the structure of the piece--sometimes even the skill of the artist--and moves into the realm of the unspoken...a feeling...a sound...a resonance of some sort that simply cannot be expressed in words. It is a reflection of the human condition...a way of being in the world captured by the stroke of a brush, the closing or opening of an aperture, the cut of a knife into wood or stone, a stitch in fabric, or the molding of some substance into a form that cannot be expressed in any other way.

Success in art means achieving authenticity...if only for a moment: the shutting out and shutting off of life's internal and external critics and simply doing and being what is natural. It is not always a pleasant experience. Sometimes it is ugly or painful or frustrating or frightening, but it--authenticity in art--is a good and beautiful and necessary thing.

Because I believe we are all connected--with each other and the environments in which we live--I believe my art, my work in society, will reach the eyes and hearts of those who seek it. I am an introspective person and give a lot of thought to what I make and why. I see my art as a place-holder of sorts. It represents a place and time...my place and time...that will not be experienced in the same way by any other living being. Rather than changing the face of art on a grand scale (like Michelangelo), I am completely enthralled by the idea of telling my story, through art, in a way that resonates with each individual who sees and responds to my work. Art for me involves a personal connection.

I read and see things every day that remind me how disjointed we are as a society. How far removed it seems we are from knowing and honoring the tenderness, sacredness and fragility of life! How discouraging and sad we humans can be at times. Does it really have to be this way?

I think, again, of the individuals who, through their generous gifts of art, touch my life profoundly. Art does not have to be some awesome revelation (though sometimes it is). Art can be as simple as an owl, an egg and an angel and have the power to--profoundly--change how we view the world.

I believe it is both a gift and a responsibility for today's artists to seek out and courageously, authentically, tell their own stories and to record what they see and feel in whatever medium they choose. Art is what brings us balance in a chaotic world. It brings us back into the realm of being human and gives us a connectedness with our selves and the life and lives around us that cannot be achieved in any other way.

And now, as I return my trinkets to their prospective places and go back to my own sketches, sewing machine, fabric and thread, I take a moment to thank my friends, the givers of such small and thoughtful gifts, for making every day a work of art.



Rukshana Hooda said...

What a beautiful, thought-provoking, well said, Article, I applaud, both, the article & The Writer...
Rukshana Hooda

Julie B said...

Beautifully written. You touched my heart and reminded me of why I create.

CinfulArt said...

What a lovely and beautiful article. It touched my heart. Thank you. Cindy

Jean Levert Hood said...

Your article left me with chill bumps from head to toe. What a wonderful piece you've give us. Thank you Janyce, thank you.

TreasuresFromHawaii said...

Aloha Janyce!

I am awe-struck by your moving piece...Thank you for sharing a small part of your soul with us...God Bless...Dava