As I sit down to write my very first blog post, I thought I should probably start simply and to the point. Why is it that I make art? In order to answer this question, I have to clear my head of all the complicated, swirling explanations that want to manifest, because it is really quite simple and I have a habit of over complicating things. I make art because I have to. I didn’t always know that it was such a huge part of me. When I was a much younger and an active artist, I knew. But somewhere along the road of college majors, different career paths and having a family, I forgot. It seems silly now. I mean, how do you forget who you are? But I did. Now, middle-aged and quite tired of playing the career game, it is very clear. I am an artist and thus, I make art because it is the only thing that I have ever done that I was truly comfortable doing. It fits effortlessly.
When I was in my late teens and in the visual arts program at Boston University, art felt stifling. It was too classical and there was not enough experimentation. I ended up with a business degree from the BU School of Hospitality. The culinary classes were more of a creative outlet than the art program was. It was there that much confusion began. I never believed that art was a career where I could make a living. It was a hobby. An outlet not to be taken seriously. The funny thing is that my family, teachers and friends supported me in my art. They all seemed to think it was a realistic path for me. I have been plagued most of my life with negative self-talk and a lack of confidence. Thus, when I switched majors to study accounting, marketing and food & beverage management, I was leaving the only part of me that really mattered behind. Since then, I have been a round peg trying to shove myself into square spaces.
I have always been an all or nothing kind of girl: Relationships, food, alcohol, jobs, whatever it was didn’t matter. I was either all in or all out. It was the same for art. Once I left the BU art building, I think I stepped foot in it once over my next four years. In my nearly 20-year search for my career path I worked in restaurants, for caterers, yoga studios, accounting and brokerage firms, a city magazine sales office, an internal education department at a medical school and finally, organizing other people at a non-profit where I have been for the past 8 years. In that time, I busted out the hot glue gun and papier-mache to make Mardi Gras crowns or other costume accessories and I created elaborate meals and table settings, but that was the extent of my artistry. During the “Big Search”, my alcohol intake continued to grow as a crutch to mask feelings of inadequacy and not fitting in. I drank to feel confident. It wasn’t until sobriety hit that I realized what I had been ignoring for so long: I am an artist and I need to make art.
I was sober only a few months when abstract paintings began flowing from me. Painting became my meditation. I then started focusing on the activities that would aid my creativity. Sitting meditation, a practice of which I begin every day, became habit. Being outside, especially in the ocean surfing but also mountain biking, skiing and hiking was how I prioritized my free time. I realize that all of these practices have this in common: they put you in the moment. Learning how to shut off the constantly nagging (and mostly negative) internal dialog. Because my art is an expression of the present and if I don’t actively stoke that fire, it grows dimmer.
I haven’t had a drop of alcohol since February of 2013. In that time, I have created a body of work that I am proud of. I haven’t felt pride like this since my art room days of high school. It seeps into all areas of my life. I can better speak up for myself with confidence. I recognize self-care as a life line for myself and all those around me that I care for. And…I’m surfing like the Bad Ass Mama that I am. So I ask myself, “Why do I make art”? The simple answer is because I HAVE to. Because without it, I am an empty shell constantly searching for answers that have been there all the time but I chose to ignore. I make art because it lights up my face and my daughter can see that light and she tells me that she’s proud of me. I do it because it brings happiness to me and my family. In fact, after doing this consistently over the past 3 years, I can’t help feel a sadness that it took me so long to see what is now so obvious. I suppose I had other things to do, and I know that all those experiences will help me down this new, yet old path. I’m so glad that I’m back here. I missed it so much.
Painting at top is Derby Day 12"x12" Mixed Media on Birch Board.
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