The Impact of Art

These last several days have been filled to overflowing with mind-boggling experiences.  As an artist, I can get overwhelmed by visual or emotional stimuli–it happened daily in Europe and I was able to step outside myself and laugh at it.  I usually know when it is happening–it is this rush, a mixture of awe and delight and wonder and surprise…and sensory overload, and misfiring neurons and fighting this urge to close my eyes, to hide from it, because it is too much to process all at once.  But if I did, I would miss out, so I force my eyes open and my mind to engage and feel the flood of experience and color and light and sound, knowing it will exhaust me. I try to embrace the fatigue, and realize it is worth the price.  Knowing that these moments will fill my artistic well and from it, I will draw my images and resources and fuel…once I have recovered.

Today is a recovery day.  I will process, sort, and hide from daylight.  I will barely answer the phone.  I will start to make sense of this experiential map, and ask where it is taking me.  Sometimes the answer is “Nowhere.  You just had the privilege to see.”  Which is a big enough gift.  Sometimes it is the start of new directions, in my work, in my thinking, in my process.  It’s too early to tell.  So I hide out for a while and see where it goes.

I hope you can forgive this rabbit trail of thoughts and images, and I hope you offer me grace if it gets too cheesy.  As I am writing, it is helping me pin down what I mean.  I am not even sure what order to place all this in.  I announced yesterday that I have joined the Pinterest community.  (I had balked from it for a long time, honestly fearful that it would suck up hours of time I should be spending creating my own work.  But I finally relented, because I can see that the accessibility of large bodies of work and the ability to share are worth it.)  I find Pinterest to be an amazing phenomenon.  I think it speaks to the universal feeling of wanting to share expression–ours and others–with the world.  I had the monumental task of going though several years of blogging and selecting items I wanted to post on this new medium, so I flipped on the television, and this series was playing on PBS called Arts & The Mind.

So as I am pinning my work and other’s, I am hearing phrases like, “The Arts play a central role on what it means to be human”.  As I follow my nose and discover images that take my breath away, from an individual I may have never had the opportunity to meet, and see works of theirs that may never be accessible to the public in any other way, my ears are picking up on brain research like this: Dance reduces the likelihood of dementia in the elderly by up to 75%.   I tear my eyes from the computer screen to capture the sacred moment of a senior, dancing in her seat, her eyes closed and a serene expression on her face, lost in the moment of creative expression.  A brain doctor saying, “Art exists.  It doesn’t need science to be validated.  We recognize instinctively when something is creatively valuable.”  Yet he studies brain scans as rappers freestyle, and learn that all sensory/motor regions are active in improv, except the self-critical thought zone in the brain.  A segment on teen poets is especially powerful, watching them talk about being empowered and discovering their own voice.  The two-part series covers the total range of experience, from infancy to old age.  It talks about healing in medical practice, the development of compassion, empathy and social cohesion, it discusses public art and its role in bringing society together, how drama provides for vicarious experiences.  It points out that art has not been discarded over the centuries, and how that is evidence of its necessity for human survival.  I am moved to tears, so grateful to be one small water droplet in this vast sea of human voices.  That I am included in this immense, living collective of expression.

The next day I had an experience while praying (I pray with my pens and pencils and paper) that I can’t yet articulate and may never be able to do so.  One that showed me visually how prayer can move.  I keep adding another sentence to this line and then deleting it, so I am obviously not ready to say more.  But wow.  And less than 48 hours later, a phone call from my sister, who described the quilt she is making for me…with the image of a woman praying.

In the last few days, Shutterfly delivered my Europe scrapbook, and I am transported by image back to some of the greatest museums in the world, where the efforts of the most brilliant creators have been concentrated for the masses.  I am connected to people long gone and buried by a tradition of putting pencil to paper, glass to mortar, paint to canvas.  These places feel like churches to me, where holy moments of the human experience are captured and recorded, from the triumphant to the most humble, from the height of joy to the deepest despair.  From the universal to the unfathomable.

Today a former student of mine is asking me to participate in a painting group he is starting…where the efforts of the next generation of brilliant creators may not be seen by more than a few.  Will their contributions be any less significant?  Any less holy?  I don’t think so.  It is all awe.  I am connected to the future by witnessing the expressions of those around me, knowing that after I am long gone, they will continue to create.

This week I have had unique brushing-up-with animals.  A hummingbird that returned repeatedly, and stayed, even with a camera in hand, to sing to me and flash his colors.

(More photos later, right now I am just telling the story.)

Same day, I went to the Wildlife World Zoo in Phoenix, and all the animals seemed to be relishing this nice weather, and putting on shows.  A one month old Gibbon baby, especially.

Then a family member’s 16th birthday party, where I observed and participated in the connective rituals that bind families and mark milestones.

Another night this week, I gathered old friends together.  Over snacks and drinks, I hennaed them and we caught up on life.  I marveled at the way we were able to summarize months, years, and somehow be fully re-engaged in each other like only a short time had passed.  A connection to a community of women, one of the most powerful bonds in the world.  A privileged seat at the table.

And then yesterday, another dear friend introduced me to The Musical Instrument Museum, a collection of the world’s musical instruments displayed by region or genre.  They distribute headphones and as you walk up to an exhibit, they play video and sound from the instruments you are looking at.  Not only is the variety and beauty of the instruments astounding, but hearing and seeing the musicians pour their hearts out is inspiring.   It is the documentation of the worlds collective voice and the lengths people go in order to make noise, to communicate, to express, to engage.  I found sometimes I would back away from the exhibit because my emotions were running too high, it was all too much…and I would force myself back, to drink in this crazy kaleidoscope down to the last drop.  Everything from African drum beats to church bells to orchestras to marching bands, the beginnings of jazz and the development of waltz, to the hip hop mixers of the ’80s.

There was an artist’s room, where different musicians were highlighted and some of their gear, writing and costumes were displayed.  There was a room full of musical instruments you could play, including a gigantic gong and a theremin.  Pre-teenagers were running gleefully from xylophones to harps to guitars to drums.  Some of them could actually make beautiful music, some was a joyful noise!  There were even displays about the creation and mechanics of the guitar, the piano.

This is the mechanism inside the piano, enlarged to show detail.

What hurdles people will leap over to express themselves! I left the museum amazed at the human being’s ability to uniquely make their mark.  Overwhelmed with gratitude, for the creators of the music and the visionaries who put this museum together.

And tonight, my doorbell will ring. And ring.  With children dressed up for Halloween.  All over this nation today, people who normally would not consider themselves artists will be transformed, by the power of their own hand, into something beautiful.  Or scary.  Or sexy.  Or grotesque.  Little girls will feel like princesses.  Little boys will feel like ninjas.  (And in hipper places, like New York City, adults will do the same.)  Transformed by the application of paint, fabric, plastic, glitter.  A tradition that binds communities without art even really getting the credit, but it doesn’t matter.  What matters is the doing of the thing.

Expression is the universal human heartbeat.  Creativity, in all the various forms it presents itself, connects us all together in holy ways.  I feel like, this last week, I have been plunged over and over into this baptismal font, not a tiny pond but an ocean–renewed and washed clean by the flow of creative force, to the extent I am left gasping, sputtering for air, blinded by the salt water.  As my vision clears, I am aware of the rest of humanity on a level deeper than I normally perceive. And it has undone me.

Temporarily.

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~ by collidescopes on October 31, 2012.

3 Responses to “The Impact of Art”

  1. i LOVE that you wrote this all out. I still remember the first time you told me it was okay that photographing a wedding both filled and emptied me. You told me to let it be, to sit in the empty, and that there would be time later to fill again. You put to words what few seem to know should be explained. Lovely.

  2. Sharing something I love with you is like like placing a fruit on the garden wall and watching a beautiful bird hop up and eat, then spread its irridescent wings and fly over the countryside riding the updrafts and flashing its colors for everyone to enjoy.

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