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What are you?

October 22, 2009

Recently I read an article about a young mother raising two children while working on her dissertation. As an aside she said, ‘Yes I still work 2 days a week  so I have something to say when people ask me what I do’.

That got me thinking about how deeply identified this society is with roles and status. The next day, someone asked me quite innocently at an artist’s gathering, ‘What are you?’  Meaning: artist, poet, musician, etc.  In the context of the above, I resented having to put myself in a box in order to be able to have a discussion with someone. Anyway, I don’t know ‘what’ I am yet, I’m only 59 and haven’t decided what I’m going to be when I grow up.

I told him that I didn’t want to answer the question and asked him instead,’What are you really excited about at this point in your life?’ And lo and behold we had a perfectly pleasant and inspiring discussion about the ‘new art’, basically all the things I”m also interested in, edgy art being made in homes on the streets and in the margins.

And all this without ever once mentioning ‘what we do’.

My heart often falls when people ask me to respond to ‘What do you do’?’. It limits the discussion right away.  And it makes me wonder why we feel so insecure  when we don’t have a conventionally accepted answer to that question. Have we accepted so completely that our sole value is in what we do? Is that our only basis for establishing a context to talk with new people?

I think I’d rather be asked what excites me, what inspires me, what issue am I wrestling with at the moment, what progress have I made in realizing some of my goals, what  are some of the nicest moments I’ve had with friends lately, in what areas of my life  do I feel connected and passionate, etc.

I have been given the privilege of being able to give a workshop I’ve been dreaming of for years. It is a mix of enchantment, making objects of personal power, using art techniques to create meaning and healing in one’s life, creating room for creative wishes and dreams, and just plain having fun with wonderful materials.   This is the place I feel the most connected and useful and inspired.

I wish I had the words to express what art and creativity mean in my life, and how much it means to me to share this.  For years I wanted to go into the healing professions, but it never felt entirely right to have to choose between that and my art. And now, approaching 60, I see they are not at all separated.

Many times in this blog I’ve been trying to express what it is about the new subcultures in art that inspires me in the way conventional channels for making and selling art don’t.    Tonight I received the latest Art Healing Network Newsletter with their 2009 awards. The approach to art as a transformative  and healing tool is perfectly expressed in this year’s winners. Here is a link to Richard Lang and Judith Selby Lang, two of the award winners.  What they are doing, their sensibilities, their stature as artists and  aesthetic quality perfectly express what it is about the new art that so entirely captures my imagination.

I am just so grateful that my life seems to be opening out into ways to share this way of seeing with others and participate in my own way in this holistic and engaged art.