“You and I are creatures of the earth made by a God who established rhythms for the preservation of life. Evening and morning. Summer and winter. Cross and resurrection. These are rhythms in nature and in history, rhythms both physical and spiritual, of plenty and of scarcity. In light of these rhythms, I submit that God has created us to experience the artistic rhythms of festal muchness and cleansing simplicity. Like so much in our [lives], our artistic health is a movement across a spectrum, from the maximal to the minimal, back and forth, each playing an important role in our maturation as disciples.” W. David O. Taylor, in For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts
More art is always better, right?
As a time and resource strapped worker-parent-citizen artist [read: human], I’m engaged to the idea that “more time for more art” is an issue worthy of a movement. (And it is closely related to several existing political conversations including women’s rights.) But George Anderson’s “Too Many Cooks” is making me wonder if this assumption (which it is) is less a creative process issue and more a result of America’s productivity culture.
Do you think it’s possible to create too much art? As an individual or a culture? (Can you make a painting or poem that expresses that?) Does making more art make art more diluted? If culture (people) needs space to absorb great art, what are we supposed to do to create a receptive void– the cultural white space that allows the image? What is art’s relationship to consumerism?
I’m finding lately that some of the work inspiring me most is also an instrument of discouragement. I’m fed by artists whose work is inspiring but whose lives I can’t attain. They have adult children, tenure, a spouse with a stable income. Even some of the mother/writers I (occasionally) read write about the frustrations of split focus or the demands of dinner– but they still manage to accomplish a weekly blog post. I understand technology allows for the appearance of regularity, but even scheduling a post requires time that I often can’t find.
Several times in the last month I’ve considered acknowledging my cyber absences with an excuse note. It would have read something like this:
Gentle Reader, My sincere apologies for neglecting to post this week. Posting something profound or elegant is beyond my capacity at this time. The demands of my work and my children are keeping me from my art.
But something about that last line is a false philosophy that I’m no longer willing to sustain. Every time I think of my teaching or my children as “keeping me from my art,” I reinforce that my teaching and my parenting are not part of my art. That’s a dichotomy that I’m beginning to suspect is a remnant of patriarchal culture. Men have often been able to segment work, family and personal endeavors; women seldom so. Political feminism (and, at times, myself) has dealt with this differential by blaming men or society for denying women equal rights to this segmentation. Yes, I would like a room of my own. But at some point that’s just asking for access to the segmenting system. I think I want something more than that. I’d like for another way (a motherly way? a parental way? a holistic way? a Jesus way? a slow-thought way?) to have a valid and respected place– and not a second place.
I didn’t write an essay this week. Or a poem. Or even do a painting or take a long walk. In fact, I feel tired, spent and a little desperate. But I was generative. This week’s (day late) Create is probably as much therapy for me as it is a prompt for you. I’m going to live into respecting my whole life by posting a part of it here as “my art.” This week I made “a lively ocean.”
What was your art today? What would you post if you weren’t afraid someone would label you cute, shallow, naive, unsophisticated, unworldly or somehow less than ironic or cosmopolitan? What was your “lively ocean” this week? What would you post if you believed someone would respect it?