It was with great sadness that I saw that contemporary artist Rex Ray died yesterday. I was in shock and then a wave of uncertainty came into my consciousness. I’ve been following Ray’s work for a while and always been amazed by his use of shape, color, and proportion. His art was identifiable and I’m sure his work inspired many artists that are working today.
It got me wondering about more than just the actual works of art living on beyond the life of the artist, but his inspiration on others. What will be his legacy? I know that he not only was a great artist, but lent his work to good causes in the community. His impact goes far beyond the world of art. As an artist, what will be left behind besides your physical works of art?
I know for me I love making art. I feel compelled to create art and it’s more than just the physical piece you get to see, but for me it’s about the process. I try and share my process about art making because I believe it’s more than about art, but about living. For this reason I believe the PBS series “ART:21” was so important. Watching an artist be interviewed while creating work inspired the body, mind, and spirit. It gives the viewer a deeper understanding of more than just the art. It provides each and every person a context for the work. It allows us to share, what is often, a secret part of the artist’s life. It’s a representation of the artist’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences.
The world is a crazy place physically, economically, socially, financially, and spiritually. Art such as Ray’s gives us perspective about the world in which we live. He provides an escape as well as an explanation. His legacy on the world goes far beyond the colorful works he created. His legacy is about how he lived and how he participated in our physical world!
I have two cats. They’re both black, in fact their brothers. We adopted them when they were nine weeks old and they are very funny to watch, as you so well know. They have very different bodies and personalities. One of the boys (Zedd) walks and looks like a lion; the other (Dauby) prowls and is sleek like a panther. If I’m in my studio they will come in and browse, look out the window, and should a piece of fabric be lying on the floor that becomes their spot.
Dauby has a greater desire to be in the studio. I have a cat that loves polyester. Dauby doesn’t necessarily want to be an artist, at least I don’t think he does, but he does have a fascination with polyester. He doesn’t want to play with the pieces of polyester, nor sleep on it for comfort, or even create with it; he wants to eat it! Yes, I have a cat that likes to eat polyester.
He comes into the studio and sniffs it out. He will dig deep to find a piece of polyester that he can chew. I’m not sure why it’s so appealing, I personally find cotton fabric much easier to chew and softer on the tongue. Fortunately for all you cat police, he doesn’t swallow it, he just chews it and leaves it around the house.
Yesterday his creative energies must have been flowing. I was sewing and I have a small box of bobbins wound and ready to use. I had left the room for a moment and when I returned Dauby was trying to pick something up with his mouth. If you have ever owned a cat you know that’s not a good sign. I called to him and he took off like a bolt of lightning (remember he’s the panther). I chased him like a good dad would and finally he realized he better drop the goods and run.
When I reached the top of the stairs I found a bobbin with bright orange thread sitting there, abandoned by the thief. Once again I have a renewed sense of hope that my cat really wants to be a textile artist, but something in the back of my mind makes me wonder.
We all have those creative urges and need to express ourselves. I can think of better ways than chewing on polyester, what will you do today to express yourself?
As artists we’re all looking for inspiration. We got to museums, buy books, and even take classes hoping to trigger our creative energies. We focus on technique, perspective, and design in order to tell our story. Our art is our message. Our art is what we hope to share with others to spread an idea, an experience, or a challenge. That’s what you want to teach the world, what does your medium teach you?
I’m a textile artist, so fabric is my game. I am not the more graceful or careful individual in the world so the idea of using sharp objects repeatedly is a concern for those around me. I have the Costco size container of Band-Aids at the quick and ready. It shouldn’t be a surprise that I’ve cut myself on multiple occasions. What did I learn? My own saliva takes out my own blood from fabric (that’s true for you too). The enzymes in your saliva take your own blood out of fabric. I know this isn’t earth shattering, but is an interesting factoid.
On a more meaningful experience, the medium you choose may hold the key to your inner workings. As an example, if you are an oil painter you know that oil paints take a long time to dry. This being the case, the lesson of patience is quite prominent. The medium also gives you the opportunity to work on multiple pieces simultaneously because they are at different stages of drying. This gives you the gift of telling different parts of the same story making a body of work quite cohesive.
All of our mediums have specific traits that require us to adapt. A watercolor artist may have to focus on how things blend together or prevent things from blending together because water runs. A sculptor (depending on the material) may have to learn chemistry and the properties of fire. A ceramic artist will have to explore their own experience of surprise because how glazes go in is not how glazes come out.
Our medium is not only our method of self-expression, but a key to unlocking the lessons from our unconscious. This is why it’s important to play with other mediums, to unlock those hidden artistic potentials and to learn the answers to the questions the soul is asking!
What fascinates you? Are you easily fascinated? I hadn’t quite thought about how fascination plays in my own creative endeavors until yesterday while reading John Butman’s book Breaking Out. Butman says, “If you don’t fascinate yourself, you cannot fascinate others.” That’s a powerful statement, and I hope you sit and ponder this for a while. How fascinated you are can impact your reach in the world.
I keep notebooks full of things that fascinate me. It may be a picture, a quote, or a story. Each of these fascinating tidbits fuels my creative passion. They are the catalyst for everything I do creatively. My fascinations allow me to keep asking questions fueling the fire for my own art and healing pilgrimage. So how does this translate to fascinating others?
How fascinated you are with your work shows in the work. There is a depth to the work no matter the medium. It shares a part of you with the world that shows your vulnerability and truth. Your fascination emphasizes what’s important to you and that helps connect you with an audience, or provides a safe environment for others to share their true selves. Fascination like creativity is contagious.
Another important factor in being fascinated is your desire to learn. I currently have five books on textile art and surface design I checked out of the library. I’m always looking for new things to try because I’m fascinated by the medium. I want to share that with others recruiting others to try textile art, or simply to engage in their own form of fascinating creative expression.
Fascination provides a sense of wonder. The kind of wonder we often experienced as a child and look to recreate each and every time we approach our art. This fascination intrigues others who observe you and entices them to engage in their own adventure with fascination.
How will you be fascinated today? What can you do to invoke fascination?
Looking for education, support, and inspiration when facing a chronic or life-threatening illness? Visit www.survivingstrong.com
Why do you visit museums and galleries? What is it about a particular exhibit that catches your attention? When you leave the exhibit what sticks with you? After having that experience what happens when you enter your own creative space; is there a shift in your work?
As artists we seek art as a way of attaining inspiration. It also gives us something to aspire to on our journey of creation. We create for all different reasons, but part of the outcome is it leaves a legacy. Our work is our narrative. It provides the world with a visual representation of our lives. If you’ve ever done a retrospective of your work you may notice patterns in your work.
I have two pieces (left: “In Sickness and In Health”, right: “Stop the Madness”) currently hanging in my living room that represents a difficult period in my life. I believe it was a time when I was having a flare of my autoimmune disease. The pieces were in response to my struggle with the discomfort and disappointment I was experiencing. Fortunately I had an outlet and one of the things about art is you can put it in the closet when it doesn’t serve a purpose.
I brought these works out this past weekend just to rotate the work hanging in the house. I’ve been looking at it and it reminds me of that difficult time. It also allows me to cherish the positive health outcomes I’ve had since that point. I can reflect on what was and see what is! I also can see how the art mirrored my feelings at the time. It gives me the sense of knowing that telling that story, no matter how difficult, is always available to me.
We seek out the work of artists to see how they used technique. When we examine their lives we can see how the work reflects their personal or historic context. Your art has the same kind of impact when others experience it. Your work can make others feel not so lonely in their own journey of health and healing or overcoming any type of adversity.
Give yourself a lot of credit for creating awe-inspiring work. It doesn’t have to be in the Metropolitan Museum of Art to have far reaching impact on the lives of others!
Looking for education, support, and inspiration when facing a chronic or life-threatening illness? Visit http://www.survivingstrong.com