It Was Good — Five
"Who Do You Say I Am?" / Identity
Chapter No. 19
Where to begin -- I guess reason one for this post being late is the fact that this past week I’ve experienced a rut. Which is strange when I think about it, because the week started off so inspired. Coming back from New York ( where I sadly didn’t get to see Agnes Martin’s work ) was both refreshing & melancholy-ish. The fact that New York holds so much creative stimulation is quite magnificent to experience, but coming home puts into perspective how New York is very much in a bubble. Furthermore the “design world” as we know it, gets stuck in a similar bubble, and admittedly, I was still in this bubble when I came home. It’s taken most of the week for me to come to terms with the fact that I still live in a suburban town, that my work is “good” as much as I've tried to deny it recently, and that I am where I should be. New York is wonderful, and I definitely see myself living there ( maybe in the near future ) but it's also vastly intimidating. I had dinner with a few friends I met over Instagram, and found myself oftentimes at a loss of words because they're "doing things" with their lives, working at fancy design offices, living in Brooklyn, etc. It was belittling, but also good to recognize what I have.
Although not as major as my prior identity crisis while reading Grace & Necessity, this week's struggle is reason two. In a way, I’m glad we are ending the semester talking about ‘identity’ because it’s important to wrestle with going into an extended break. Most of us will have large quantities of solitude while on break, and being able to be comfortable with one’s self again is extremely important. In terms of art & design -- I’m once again struggling with what to call myself, of if "titles" really mean much for that matter. For years I thought of myself only as a Designer, putting aesthetics first, subconsciously submitting to manipulation … but this summer I started calling myself an Artist, convinced that I do in fact want to live an artistic lifestyle, with personal craft being my fulfillment & design solely serving as work. But recently there’s been a resurgence. I’m finding that at certain times, fulfillment is reached through design and it’s throwing me for a loophole. My goal for Winter ‘16 is to figure out how I can integrate the two, and not feel frustrated every time I completely change mediums -- making the inner selves work together rather than playing separate roles.
The way in which I see myself integrating art & design — to the degree in which I feel both creatively and faithfully satisfied — is through print. I’m absolutely transfixed with print and the tactile. It’s actually quite comical, whenever I get in this place of feeling “stuck” one of the things that pulls me out is the fact that I am in love with print. In our digital world it’s so common to get wrapped up in social media, in perfecting one’s website ( which is reason number three for the rut ), or simply “creating content” fit for screens. Print helps me escape this “design bubble” I mentioned before. Editorials & publications go further than just the temporary -- they showcase real stories, experiences, truth. Design, art, photography … they’re all met through print. Truth, beauty, goodness can all be appreciated, communicated well, and showcased in a publication.
In another class we are currently working on our final project, the “four year plan” with my ultimate goal being to start an editorial. Why do I so often lose touch with my love of print? In hopes of conquering this detour in the future, I decided to create what I call “quarterly musings” for the next four years ( picture below ). In a further push towards integration, I want these musings to be filled with colour palettes, packaging elements, photos, tickets, writings etc. that I’ve pulled from each season. They are, in a way, a tool to help recenter myself whenever I feel uncreative, stuck, dissatisfied with where I am at. Art & design are met through this medium, as well as a way in which to make sense of this intricate world we live in. They also serve as inspiration to continually “make” -- something I have so often struggled with, but also something that I've realized is of utmost importance.
Part of me absolutely hates what I’m about to say, but throughout the course of Art & Christ, my largest takeaway has been this: simply make. What else can we do as artists? No other act satisfies career, personal practice, or the glorification of God more than making. I’ve said it before, but the hardest thing for me to do is to sit down and just ‘make’. If there’s not a purpose, not a clear plan of what a piece will become, then why should I make it? But that’s just it -- there IS purpose in ‘making’ to ‘make’ and I am finally understanding it. Whatever we create, we are creating it in order to further help others understand the divine, while at the same time trying to understand it ourselves. This notion right here should be enough justification to continue making … then how come we so often feel the opposite?
The rut that was this week made me realize how ridiculous we make ourselves out to be -- at our core, we are but mere broken humans, but we hold ourselves with such esteem. I see this especially in the Christian world, and it saddens me. We are indeed God's people, but we have no right to think of ourselves more than others. Same goes for the design world, the art world, every genre of profession. The way in which our world thrives is by everyone working together -- something I continually forget. Life, indeed, is quite wonderful this way. Now, this doesn't solve all problems, but is a good reminder. Integration, integration, integration.
LIFE IS WONDERFUL
Last night I watched It’s A Wonderful Life ( as I do every year during the holiday season ), and cried uncontrollably ( also as I always do ). Even writing the words “it’s a wonderful life” makes me tear up -- because it’s so true. We are each granted with a wonderful life, and to see others cherish and be thankful for it is one of the most beautiful things. When we are truly able to integrate our lives, that’s when joy & happiness comes. It’s not planned -- it’s the repercussions of our empathy towards God, towards others, and towards oneself. I’ll end with this quote from the film, which helped me finally get out of my rut, and while possibly contradictory to my previous statement, I believe there's also merit in knowing that people are more than they think they are: “Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?”
It's a Wonderful Life, Still.
So I believe it is a risky proposition to think that you learn a lot about artists by simply looking at their art.
Transformation is its own end. The canvas, as it were, remains blank freedom; expression, choice, and change exist in [ their ] own right and need no compelling justification.” [ They ] also pointed out how at variance these views are with those articulated by traditional religious belief.
To express oneself is to participate in the creation of reality: a process co-terminus with life itself. Conversely, not to express oneself is “not to exist.” One said, “Art is merely away of getting out stuff within yourself.” Another declared that art “is an expression of someone’s soul.” And a third artist believed that “the value of the work is higher, the more personal it gets".
The making of reparations is a parallel but separate process from the making of art and is a form of art-making in itself.
Rather, the question is, who does the artist want to be and what does she want to do in her work?
Now many artists I know fervently desire that their faith be a constitutive element in their art. Some want to express their faith through their art; others want their faith to be the foundation for, or worldview behind, the work. But other Christians are content to let their work develop without much reference to their religious beliefs, or perhaps they have explicitly a-religious ends in mind, such as that the work should enliven architectural spaces, or decorate visually impoverished places.
Christian content is not a craft to be learned.
To the degree that the artist tries to guess an audience’s response and adjusts the work to appease sensitive sensibilities, the likelihood increases that artistic power and expression will be diminished. So, while artists must care for their audience, they cannot be controlled by it.
Concepts are necessary to order and understand experiences, but they also are modified and reconfigured to the degree that there is dissonance between what we think we know, and what we actually experience.