Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Art as Quest

Becoming an artist creates complicated and fascinating emotional states. A wonderful aspect of this is the process of remembering who I am, the essence of Amy-ness, a return to my strange, quirky, six year-old self and her playfulness and curiousity and wonder. Being open to creativity seems to require this return, and it is a joyful reunion for the most part, although the occasional six year-old temper tantrum has indeed popped up.

The part that is odder and weirder is discovering this whole dimension of my life that I had never known existed, outside of a few hints and whispers. All my life I've had mysterious and compelling dreams of a house where I find a hidden entranceway to rooms I hadn't known were there. I would wake with a feeling of gladness they were there, the sense of possibility they offered, and a longing to explore them further and disappointment that I had awakened. It doesn't seem like an overly large leap that this may have been a metaphor for my undiscovered artist self.

(In order to avoid a tangent but in the spirit of blogging and its connection to the larger world, this is relatively common dream topic. My dream also pops up also in Ann Tyler's poignant book, The Amateur Marriage, with an interesting take on what the dream reveals about the person.)

Now that I'm exploring these new rooms in my waking life, well, everything in my dream house is having to shift around some. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that some chaos will ensue.

For one thing, I have found that my mood is alarmingly related to the amount and quality of my current work. This was never a factor I had to consider before. My life was fine and didn't connect to this unpredictable painter person at all -- it's like I've adopted a new pet that must be fed each day or he'll gnaw on my leg until he gets his chow. Like any new pet, my little art monster does make my life richer but also more complicated. Then there's that whole ego thing I already mentioned, where my sense of my ability fluctuates wildly from one day to the next. Then there's the whole exposing your soul to the world -- taking what's inside of me and bringing it out and then hanging it on a wall is not so easy for anyone with a modicum of shyness and desire to avoid pain. The inner ideas long to be shared, but they are also vulnerable and unsure and unanchored. There isn't necessarily a logic or a basis or an explicable reality to them. Sometimes I want to make them more anchored and more understandable and less ethereal, during which the idea usually gets ruined like a seedling torn apart by an amateur gardener.

And there's this magical, bizarre side of finding out about the visions and ideas inside of you that have apparently been waiting to appear for decades (or more?). Who the heck put them there? Why are they inside of me? Sometimes as I look at what I paint and think about life as an artist, it has the flavor of one of those age-old quests or fairy tales. Without asking for it, somebody decided it was my job to carry around and work with this unexpected gift. The quest doesn't necessarily make my life easier -- it brings hairy twists, pitfalls and large, scaly dragons. But like the heroines of yore, I am the only one who can perform this particular task, and to deny it would be my peril, would turn my life to stone. So I've headed off into the forest and there's no turning back now.

So that's the art quest I guess. The burden and the joy of any gift such as this. It's weird to find out that you have it. And even weirder to watch how it transforms your life into something you never imagined.

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