Why make art? This is the question that was posed for a group of us who met for lunch this week:
Two poets, a composer, a psychotherapist, a sculptor, a graphic designer, a drawing professor, a painter and a calligrapher. It was such a lively conversation! There were many different strands to our talk, so I will take just one today.
One of the people in our group had decided to quit making, and caused me to ask myself again: Why am I a maker?
There are so many ways to answer this. I know that the kind of power and confirmation I experience in creation is more substantial than any power I have gained in the world. There is a difference between those who make for the market, and those who continue to make in spite of failure, criticism and/or downheartedness. We will speak of the latter, the one who perseveres regardless of rejection or market value– (knowing that the paradox is that the ultimate confirmation is the transference of our solitary work into the public arena– to be able to give our gift, however small, back to the world).
Each one of us gets to decide: How do I want to spend my days? Even when we have a full time job to support our maker practice– the act of setting aside just ten minutes a day for the artist, in a special place, allows for something to happen. The work begins to have a life of its own.
I think this relates to Joseph Campbell’s question: What did you do as a child that made you lose track of time, that gave you a sense of timelessness?
There is total involvement. This is the key to finding coherence with your spirit, with who you are. A practice you return to that adds fluidity to the rest of your day. It is something that no one else can take away. When I am painting or writing, I need solitude. I get in touch with myself in a way that grounds me for my work in the world, and returns to me a sense of calling.
How do I want to shape my life? What footprints do I want to leave behind?
This poem, Annunciation, by Marie Howe, speaks to our initial question by taking time to to check our internal compass and choose a direction. I need the tactile component of “dreaming with my hands” that opens the timeless place we come across, every now and then, when giving ourself over to the process of making, or being:
Even if I don’t see it again—nor ever feel it
I know it is—and that if once it hailed me
it ever does—
And so it is myself I want to turn in that direction
not as towards a place, but it was a tilting
as one turns a mirror to flash the light to where
it isn’t—I was blinded like that—and swam
in what shone at me only able to endure it by being no one and so
specifically myself I thought I’d die
from being loved like that.
What motivates you to keep making? Do any of you know this artist, Joan Eardley? She was unknown to me when I discovered her in the museum in Glasgow, and I haven't met anyone familiar with her work– these paintings are from the 1950's. Timeless!