I get this question a lot in class. “Where do you come up with this stuff?” I often offer some quick answers in the classroom just because people are there to absorb as much as possible. Not only technical information but inspiration information as well. Today, I would love to expand on that.
So, standing at a show this weekend in Atlanta, GA, I was asked again and again by the serious art collectors to ‘tell them about this piece’. This should be easy to do if the piece started with a thought beyond just the technical part. If you learn how to follow your thoughts backwards and forwards, this part should be a cake walk.
Let’s start at home…. What is that feeling you get when the flight attendant says “If you are from (insert name of city here), welcome home”? For me, when he/she says “Welcome to Kansas City”, it evokes a wave of calming emotion. People often take this for granted, don’t give it a thought, or say to themselves, ‘great, now on to the next task’. I would ask you to ruminate on that for a while. Because making your art personal is how you move beyond ‘pretty’. Remember pretty is nice but not significant. I took a course in college called World Lit. It was taught by a brilliant woman from a french speaking African country that I can no longer remember. She focused on literature that was created in the time period after a country was invaded to the point of revolution. In essence, the class was about protest literature. One week we examined the concept of home and how that is different for everyone. If you are born in a place, but never lived there, it still can become part of your persona and how you define yourself. Everyone has this imprinting. It is how revolution is often sparked. In order to go to war for your country/place of birth, you have to evoke a sense of nationalism. This part of yourself that is from that place, must now protect and defend that place. As you move through your life and add experiences and acquaintances, loves, family, friends, you often define and redefine this sense of home. I found it interesting when I used to travel with my husband and people would ask where we were from. Because I loved Kansas City and have lived here longer than anywhere else in my life, I would say Kansas City. Because he continued to feel like a transplant, he would say Dallas. As we were clearly married, we would get some odd looks. I was not born and raised in KC, so it is not my hometown, but to me it is my home (town). He did not have the same emotional connection to this place. So, we all have this imprint, it is just different for all of us.
Floor of the Kansas City International Airport
I know a girl whose father works in glass (actually I know many!) and loves to travel to Venice/ Murano to teach, work, take class and feels steeped in the culture. She also identifies with this and has learned to speak Italian, etc. Her connection to her father makes her not only American by birth, but Italian by association. And in turn, this colors and informs both his work and hers.
I have another friend who lived in Paris during her adolescence and while she is American by birth, some part of her feels Parisian. This experience colors and informs her art work.
This is the perfect place to start with your work. My current interest in the birds is personal on many levels but for the most part, the birds are about the hierarchy of my backyard. We often look at birds and sort of take it for granted that they are sweet song singers and bird watching is pleasant and relaxing. However, in my backyard, these seemingly innocent creatures are territorial survivalists willing to kill. The more birds I create, the easier it is to transform the emotion I see created from instinct. It’s true, I give them human attributes. I do that because underneath the layers, filters and walls, human beings want the same thing: not only to survive, but thrive.
So today, dear readers, I want you to think about your home story and how you can translate that into your art object of affection. Your expression of yourself and your home will be personal. But since we all have this innate sense of home, many of us will relate to your expression on some level. Be well gentle readers. I can’t wait to see what you come up with.