I came home with one primary mission- to prepare as much as possible for my two month journey to Italy. To sit down, delete emails, clean out my desktop and external hard-drive, sort through the ideas and initiatives that I want to accomplish when I am there, and focus entirely on resting and prayerfully preparing. While all of these things will happen, I should've guessed that as soon as I came home, free from a very tough year (in which my creative energy was dwindling), that I would want to begin creating again for the sake of creating; reminding myself why I love what I do. Don’t get me wrong, I love photographing events and happenings around my school, but developing my own projects and bringing them to life is one of the ways in which I feel most alive.
Whenever I come back to my bedroom I immediately recall putting up huge blank scrolls of paper on my walls and stealing as many materials as I could from my mom’s workspace. As much as I love photographing I have always wanted to use material. To make something out of nothing. To visually portray an emotion in a new and fresh way. Of course, I would usually end up trashing my room or simply painting a piece of paper a different color. But I didn’t mind, that’s the beautiful thing about the creative process- it is valuable in itself. Then I would walk outside to read only to wander back upstairs to grab my camera and photograph the roses, wisteria, or my personal favorite, the peonies. You see, my mom cultivated an environment here both physically and creatively. She designed a space that was so full of life and beauty that one could not help but perceive God’s goodness in every color and shape, and then be spurred to take part in artistic creation.
I could be dishonest and tell you that these are simply the images that were born out of the desire to do anything but unpack. Yes, they did start this way, but over the past few months (as some of you know) I have begun to question how my work can be more than a pleasant square to scroll past on Facebook. I want to learn to make images that are dynamic and challenging. I want to learn to make art as service, sacrifice, and sacrament (Bruce Lockerbie's, The Timeless Moment). That being said, these images were a sort of prayer for me- a prayer that pleaded for hope and renewal during a time here that although may seem light and easy, is quite hard. We are adjusting to change, and I didn't just want to post some “pretty” pictures of flowers. I wanted to share with you, even in these brief sentences, my messy. As an artist I am incredibly sensitive. I feel really, really deeply. I can almost taste brokenness, fear, doubt, and confusion. And in this very moment it is only driving me to seize beauty and create art, to subdue the apparent chaos and make known the truth- that in Christ there is healing, hope, and new life. I hope that as I explore what hope actually looks like, that you can take comfort in these as well.
It’s hard being type-a and creative. I can’t plan my creative outbursts, my desire to make. I almost must submit to them. As I am learning more about the involvement of the Holy Spirit in my creative process I have become less controlling. My awareness of beauty and the overwhelming rush of ideas, projects, and images that I experience is actually quite painful. I am afraid of losing them and become disillusioned into believing that I can control them and place them on a timeline. If I don't have time or space to record them, or if I can't put them into words then I grow frustrated. However, this morning I read an article called The Holy Spirit and the Arts that reminded me of the beauty of my personality types that are seemingly at odds.
The article endorsed “an organic approach that emphasizes union with the Savior as the source and sustaining influence of our creative work”. My relationship with these random (and sometimes unfortunately timed) creative impulses must be organic, raw, and undomesticated. The Holy Spirit is not a tool or a lackey that I consult when lost or overwhelmed. It requires my obedience and submission, but it is also active, wild, and incredibly thrilling. The "mechanistic" approach simply will not do. He relates this to John 15, and the organic union of the Vine to its branches.
Developing my skill and photographic style has been one of the greatest joys in my life. Photography for me is a mode of being. It is how I see most clearly. It plunges me deeper into each experience. It has put me into places of great fear, but it is ironically one of the places in which I feel most comfortable and natural. The funny thing is, as much as I feel there is a difference between my type-a personality and my creative outbursts, I have begun to discover the ways that they might get along. Art is organization for me. Art is how I seize things that I cannot simply let pass. It is how I make sense of my surroundings. It puts me to rest.
Prayer for Artists
(From "Prayers of Our Heart" by Vienna Cobb Andersen)
Bless the creators, O God of creation, who by their gifts make the world a more joyful and beautiful realm. Through their labors they teach us to see more clearly the truth around us. In their inspiration they call forth wonder and awe in our own living. In their hope and vision they remind us that life is holy. Bless all who create in your image, O God of creation. Pour your Spirit upon them that their hearts may sing and their works be fulfilling. Amen.
Oh, and “And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair” (Kahlil Gibran)