I am an Artist

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Though I am still sorting out exactly who I am as a Christian, as a woman, and simply as a person one identity that I’ve always been clear on from a very young age is: artist. I remember in particular I said I would be an artist for a living when I grow up and I didn’t need to know a lot of math since I would be an artist and I would have more important things to focus on. While I have come to see the importance of math and numbers in my life I haven’t let go of that identity. I am an artist.

I have let go of the notion that an artist is someone who paints and wears a smock, it’s expanded to include all kinds of art forms including my main squeeze writing. I also realize it isn’t about fame or credentials either. All I have to my name is dozens of journals, scraps of writing, my senior thesis, and this blog, yet I call myself an artist.

Art is more than a pretty landscape in a museum.

And as I’ve grown up I realized art is more than a pretty landscape in a museum. It’s a chance to open minds, to make creative change, to get people to really think, see, and listen. It’s a place to expand your own mind, to really look at the world around you, and to add beauty, real beauty. There is more than enough pretty empty things to look at, listen to, or watch. It’s art that makes people get up and do something, it’s art that opens minds to new possibilities, and it’s art that frees people to fully be alive and be themselves.

This time last year I was reflecting after having done two weekends of performances of the Women of the Bible show (not it’s real name). That was art. It was such a huge creative process for all of us, it came for our true stories, but by the time we had our first performance it was bigger than all of us and to put it simply lately my soul has been aching to create art like that.

Just last week I was at the MFA with a friend and they have this series called Drawing in the Galleries (highly recommend you going by the way) on Wednesday nights (coincidentally this is the same night the MFA is free to the public), where live models come in for you to sketch. The models are there for 3 hours, we were there pretty much the whole time and time just flew by.

I had forgotten how freeing and absorbing it is to just be in a creative space. Now sketching and drawing aren’t artistry I think I have any special knack for, but I’m realizing more and more that’s not the point. I firmly believe that I do have talent as a writer, but being creative in general even if it’s simply how I choose to handle my problems adds to my creativity and art as a writer.

Now what?

I intend to find more ways to be creative. Even right now sitting here and carving out time to write is part of that. I make too many excuses for why I’m not writing the things I want to write. Too many excuses why reading a book is more valuable than working on a new short story. Watching yet another episode of House Hunters International, when I could be collaging, blogging, or writing. Even if it’s small there’s a lot of value to simply trying to create something rather than constantly consuming. So perhaps today my canvas will be what I wear today, and that spark of creativity might be enough to inflame a story idea, who knows?

Art makes us think, but more than that it makes us feel

I see such value in other artists. The other night I watched Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq, a modern day adaptation of Aristophane’s Lysistrata and I was impressed. (warning it is R rated for sex, violence, and language–the triple threat)

It created new from old, was such a creative take on a unique piece of ancient theater, and spoke so poignantly to the issues of the streets of Chicago. It is so true that in the words of Percy Bysshe Shelly, “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” More than any article could have done that movie put heart, soul, and people behind the issue. It’s startling enough to know that over 7000 people were murdered in Chicago, but to see that story played out and the conclusions they come to, the hope they can see, it empowers me to share my voice. It gives me avenue to care.

A story in of itself may not change the horrors around us, but it may inspire someone to speak up against the horrors. It might inspire someone to choose art, creativity, and hope, over destruction, assumption, and hopelessness. It might inspire someone to donate, volunteer, rethink an issue, all things I’ve done after being impacted by art.

So that is why I am an artist.

It is part of how God crafted me formed me and shaped me. What I am reminded of more than anything this week is that just as I am inspired by artists, made aware of issues in deeply personal and powerful ways, I too have that potential within me. To add more beauty to the world, to shine a brighter light, to get people to think, see, and listen. As long as I am alive I’m an artist–I will keep putting words together and hope that even if it’s only me, they help someone to see the world differently.

Shine. Inspire. Create. Love.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV)

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