BA. Studio Arts, George Fox University, 2007.
Recipient of the George Fox University Student Award in Studio Arts 2007.
It’s said an Artist’s statement justifies the means of creating a collection of Art.
I think the biography of an Artist should be seeking to do something similar. It seems to me that it should show the road a human has traveled in order to bring them to a point that they are an expert at design and creation of some kind.
But I’m not sure how to perfectly justify myself as an Artist in regard to technique and ability except that I seem to have a talent for making pictures. It’s been with me since I was born. It is and will be (hopefully!) always improved with practice.
Instead here I think it might be better if I told you the journey of my life that brought about my self-actualization that finally allowed me to practice making art bravely.
Going to school, I didn’t have consistent exposure to museums on a regular basis. I didn’t engage with poetry or picture books more than average. On the contrary, I would say that my parents held me back from most creative pursuits in the interest of keeping me “pure”. Seeing a nude human form, or hearing ideas which might sound “liberal” would certainly ruin me in their view. I was also dissuaded from what they called the “nonsense” of practicing abstract art. Instead I was directed to represent everything “perfectly” as in a photograph. Perhaps that can be helpful to a person whishing to increase their technical skills and draw subjects as they appear in our sight, but it didn’t leave me feeling very creative or that I had a very creative upbringing.
My first movements into thoughts on the human experience and the means to interpret it through art came in university. It was there that I didn’t have someone looking over me approving what I made. I was finally not censored. Instead I was encouraged to study forms that I liked. Also I was asked for my own opinion, and expected to give a response—an interpretation. But I had just come from an environment that left me terribly afraid of being “unacceptable” in someone else’s view. I couldn’t have dreamed of creating pictures which were not a representation of a recognizable object, let alone think of how to tell the story of the objects depicted. Nor was I brave enough to express my internal world. It was very hard then to deviate from those senses--I was taught they were what was acceptable. But now in order to form opinions I had to ask, “What was acceptable?” and “Would I be accepted if I made an expression rather than a copy?” and “Could I accept myself if I practiced that way?” and “How will I go about this?”
I look back on my university years with some pity and some wonder. I recognized now that had been so sheltered. I was like a zoo animal let out of it’s cage for the first time—I desperately wanted to get out of my restraints but I had no idea of how to live in a free world. I tried anyway, and I was surprisingly prolific at that time. And through a miss-understanding of how to paint with a hog hair brush, I took up bold painting with pallet knives. Because of the broad nature of my tool and the heaviness of oil paint, I began painting more expressively and used very much thick paint with lots and lots of red and orange.
I am astounded now because I think I was screaming at the top of my lungs. I think now I painted that way as I believed, as often and as “perfectly” as possible, (ripping my heart out on each canvas), because I was looking for love. Not romantic love, but love of myself—acceptance of my real self that not many had helped me come to as a young person. But I still only knew to look outward for that acceptance. Always, without words, in red and orange paint---Loudly!--I kept shouting, “Look at me! Look at me!” and “Is this good enough?” “Am I good enough?”
But I was still screaming in a very quite way, the way I had learned to scream as a young person—in fact to appear as though I was not screaming at all; instead still always looking appropriate. So for all the hard work I dedicated myself to, I still wasn’t able to speak directly. Also my pictures didn’t carry a consistent or clear message. In this way, I think I was not able to reflect my reality in an honest manner. Being constantly afraid of a loss of love, while seeking love, I hid my real self so that I would not have to face a rejection of myself. And in that place, I could not speak to the reality of my lived experience in my pictures.
I guess I have something of a sad story. But maybe this ongoing processing is what has caused me to fall into the craziness of being an artist through and through. To grow out of my naivety and fear I needed to be very honest and I needed to face my emotional challenges square in the face. Fortunately drawing and painting provided me a safe means to accomplish that work. Artistic expression gave me a safe place to ask , ‘why’ and ‘how’ and ‘what the hell?’
At that time I was realizing the importance of one’s personal growth. I was promised that within the mental growth process, I would find truths—truths that would connect me more strongly to others and provide access to that which I didn’t know I needed or wanted. So within myself, I became obsessively introspective. And all that introspection kept making it’s way out onto my drawing and painting compositions. I cried a lot. I still do. But slowly, I begin to find myself. In parallel, my pictures begin to show myself more completely, and they begin to speak with more clarity. With the help of wonderful teachers, I began to see that I was not a talent alone, but a creative human. I was learning that I had a story and it was worth telling and in that I was worth loving. And as one can if they are growing outward, I learned that I could love others better as I loved myself, and in the experience, I could tell other’s stories with my pictures too. In this way, I was beginning to heal and feel closer to the other good people around me.
And I began to abstract without guilt. I think you can guess it, the more I abstracted, the freer I felt. While I was learning I didn’t have to tragically worry about rejection as I had before, not worrying about it was a feeling that was new to me and I’m not sure I always believed that I was completely safe every time. But I kept pushing, and the more I transformed, the more courageous I felt to put anything on my surfaces. Again I saw that my art surfaces were safe places. I worked faster. I saw more. Kept moving. My silent mantra became, “See the reality; look at it as a whole; disassemble it; put it back together again—And can you put it together in a new form?” I began to ask, “How much should I put on the paper for the viewer to understand what they are seeing? How much can I take away to make it interesting? Where would a viewer’s imagination like to play?”
Finally the most pleasant discovery of all was that people liked what I was doing.
These questions of my education lead to many of the currents in my present work today. Because I found it was within my power to give the elements of images the space they needed to become different from their original forms, as a result, I think that my efforts today are able to carry the essence of creativity more than my past works. In that allowance, I found the images in finality were able to change their statements profoundly—they began to speak more loudly than before. But more and more, with a warm heart, I’m finding that the stories that emerge are more and more stories of self-acceptance. And people are seeing their own lives in the pictures of my self-acceptance. So I’m so very glad to see that I’m not so very different than other human beings. I’m very humbled to feel closer to my human family in this way. What an honor that I can tell our human story! How was it that I was so very blessed with the talent to create these images? So it’s my hope that I retain a sense of responsibility as I create images. It’s not only my story I’m telling.
So today, I believe the purpose of my artistic work should be to honor the human story. Tell it as honestly as possible, and present it beautifully if it is within my power to do so. I believe we are made in the image of God. As God is a living creator, so also we embody that creative drive—together.
We are living; therefore let us create, together.
My biography should be a statement of the experiences that helped me become an artist. I think I have presented that here. Maybe surprisingly, I don’t think my Artistic Biography is very different from the “regular” lived experience of people who do not see themselves as creators. Because in my own mind, I can’t perfectly declare a certain point in my life when I had a sudden experience or collection of experiences that changed me into a creator. I can’t firmly point to the date when I self actualized completely--instead I can point to a continual process of personal growth and self-acceptance. I think this is an experience common to all who wish to be better than they were before. Isn't that the human story?
Regular, everyday experience is beautiful. I think we are all naturally creators from the beginning of our lives. So then, let us use our creativity and build each other up—let’s honor each other’s experiences—together
For more information on my work as an artist, see my article at "Christian Feminism Today": eewc.com/a-visual-diary