Even as a creative artist, I used to think enduring struggles and hard days in silence and telling people everything was great meant I was strong. And then I learned it just meant I was scared—scared of people not loving me any other way. Scared of sharing the lessons that pain had to teach. I no longer see perpetual claims of “fineness” as strength.
People desperately need to see the full human experience, especially the dark parts. They need to know that other folks struggle, too, and that it’s all part of a bigger story of triumph. They need permission to keep going, knowing that hardship is normal for everyone. Give them that gift. Have that courage. Tell the whole story.
What if a man could write everything that came into his mind. You could find there gems of wisdom, depth of utter despair, heights of the most cherished hopes, killing fields where we slaughter our enemies, moments of faith and moments of doubts, dark chambers where we commit infidelity against our partners, counting the goods we have stolen, hell nightmares, heaven blessedness, cursing of our enemies and blessing of our friends, and many other things. If one could write his mind, it would be a mirror to other minds where they could find themselves and not feel as the only wretched souls in existence. Go on then, write your mind in a book and publish it.
―Bangambiki Habyarimana, Pearls Of Eternity
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
Art is often judged useless, even stupid. What does our definition of art reveal about our self image and worldview?
Public Domain Image via Pixabay
Experimental artist Max Glaser was born in Georgia, but makes his home in the fast paced reality of New York City. His work has been featured in several galleries and museums, including MoMA PS1 in Queens and the BOSI Gallery on the Upper East Side. He seeks to punch a hole in the fabric of modern life, which has become increasingly abstracted, full of people reacting to images of things rather than the things themselves. How do we regain contact with the natural, corporeal world?
The project described in this short film by Evan Harms is the carving of fifty thousand candles. The method Glaser uses? His teeth. At forty candles a day, he figures it will take a little less than three and half years to complete the project. During that time he will be chewing, spitting and biting into candle wax almost constantly. He says he can’t even imagine being able to stop. Can you imagine ingesting wax and wearing the enamel from your teeth?
Glaser asserts that art does little in the world. It doesn’t build bridges or feed hungry children. Or does it? I can think of many examples of art that does something useful: the works of Plastic Ocean Project, an organization which makes art from sea trash and uses the profits to fund research to make our oceans cleaner; the work of street artists, particularly those in Egypt and Libya, which contain messages that may put the artists at risk for persecution but encourage human beings living in unthinkable situations; the works of poets, novelists and photographers which reveal people that have been marginalized and tell their stories. Art can influence minds and produce change.
Does Glaser’s view strike you as cynical or full of self-loathing? Before you discount his project for those qualities, remember that art has always been a place for revealing all facets of the human being, including the darker ones. Surely one of the jobs of art is to reflect humanity in all its delight and vanity.
There must be at least as many definitions of art as there are human beings walking the Earth. Some believe that real art is without message, while others won’t consider anything that doesn’t have one. Debates rage over whether art should be representational or abstract. We require beauty, style, structure. Unfortunately, when we get so wrapped up in defining art it slips right past us, taking with it our potential for growth.
If the future looks dark, all you have to do is to find a candle and carry it with you. If it looks bright, the best thing to do is still to carry that candle, because the future can always create a different story. Always carry a candle by your side!
Lorna Fraser is a sculptor who takes her inspiration from gardens, imitating the structures of plants, including water lilies and various seedpods, in black and white ceramics. This medium allows her to fully explore the effects of light and shadow on her subjects “whilst also trying to capture their vulnerability and sensuality. (Lorna Fraser, website)” Her creations often combine textures and shapes from different plants to create fascinating hybrids. From spiny to knobbly to smooth, Fraser is enchanted by texture. She has exhibited her delightful work in Scotland and internationally. Enjoy her lovely personality in the video below.
She did not know yet how sometimes people keep parts of themselves hidden and secret, sometimes wicked and unkind parts, but often brave or wild or colorful parts, cunning or powerful or even marvelous, beautiful parts, just locked up away at the bottom of their hearts. They do this because they are afraid of the world and of being stared at, or relied upon to do feats of bravery or boldness. And all of those brave and wild and cunning and marvelous and beautiful parts they hid away and left in the dark to grow strange mushrooms—and yes, sometimes those wicked and unkind parts, too—end up in their shadow.
― Catherynne M. Valente, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There