Sunday, October 1, 2017

Own/ing Art


(Note from Susan: Happy 1st day of October! As the year winds down, if you feel the need to document your own thoughts as you make your way through the school year, or know of a teacher who might appreciate beautiful photos, short but encouraging essays, and room to write, please consider my book, Dear Teachers, available on Amazon, or signed copies by emailing me at Thank you!)

I had a great conversation this week with an art teacher. No, that’s not the right terminology to describe her. She’s an art advocate. An art appreciator. An art ambassador. I’m still not there yet.

Art. Creation. Exploration. Expression. Emotions.

We talked of all these things but then the keystone fell into place: ownership.

As a child, I was regularly told that I was a good artist. I was frequently singled out in classes as we studied topics and attempted to emulate what was covered. I enjoyed it but I never thought of myself as an artist. Over the last few years I finally figured out how to put it in concrete terms. As Edgar Degas said, artists make others see. (I’d add “feel, think and wonder”.)

I copied. I never owned. I was not a true artist.

Teachers can teach techniques. Teachers can possess encyclopedic knowledge from which they can suggest points to explore. Perhaps the most impactful thing a teacher can do is encourage the student to make whatever they are doing their absolute and very own. This was the fire and draw I saw in this teacher’s eye.

When one can jump mind, body and soul into a creation, the artist learns of themselves and the audience does as well. Whether it’s a song, a sculpture, a building or a broach, art exposes, connects and breeds both questions and understanding.

It’s taken me to middle age to be able to say I’m an artist. My media are words and images and my inspiration comes from our lives. I’m taking all that I’ve studied and experienced, all that I’ve pondered and witnessed, and am now creating something that captures who I am and what I hope and feel. I look at it all as a tapestry of my life’s story. I can see how I evolve and build on others’ work. I can turn to tomorrow and a blank screen, knowing that I and my work will be different even if I cannot know in what exact ways. I do this with anticipation.

The more we own our lives, the richer we become.

As we go about our days, if we, like this teacher encourages, go at our work with ownership, our results will be greater. How? Perhaps they won’t be “better” than someone else’s. Perhaps they won’t even be what we had envisioned or hoped for. However, those results will be us as we are now and the life symphony experienced by those around us will be more sonorous for that truth and genuinity.

That’s real beauty. That’s real art.

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