I am not the kind of person who has ever made choices based on what will simplify my life. In life, as in art, it has always been hard for me to resist the temptation to make a mess just to see what it will look like and what you can make with it. Sometimes it is instantly beautiful. Sometimes it creates a new thing I couldn't have imagined. Sometimes it is a jumble of embarrassing blunders I have to work on until I find the harmony. Working on art projects with elementary school students as a museum educator, we did not give kids the new piece of paper they begged for as soon as they made a "mistake". While this was purely a budgetary concern, I quickly realized it was the most important thing they would learn that day. Work with what you have. You don't get a fresh piece of paper. Those challenges are what hone your creative instincts. You'll make better art and be able to make something interesting out of some of life's ugliest moments.
It is important to remember, however, that making the mess is only the first step in the process. You must then move on to doing the work of whatever it takes to allow the art that lies therein to emerge and take form. Staying stuck in the mess is responsible for a lot of bad art and miserable lives. But what is that work? What does it take to transform a thing into art? This is the mystery that keeps us hooked. That is the practice. The great news is that life provides endless opportunities for practice.
My most recent opportunity came when I decided to put down roots so that I could have a home and studio to call my own. After months of house hunting and experiencing first hand all the crazy things I'd only heard in rumor about becoming a first time home buyer, I finally settled on a tiny, 50's style ranch on a corner lot on Sharp St. After all these years of moving around from place to place, my home is now Sharp Corner.
I believe the mess I made while moving into Sharp Corner is one that will be the basis for much beauty in my life in the years to come. Having everything I own thrown into an insane pile of boxes, many of which I may never even open again, was apparently not enough chaos to satisfy my creative curiosity. I also opted to take on several renovation projects, start an passionate relationship with a pretty complicated person, and adopt a huge and very needy pitbull mix from a local shelter. Working with this abundance of raw material to make an artful life full of beauty and inspiration is a creative practice that is definitely keeping me on my artistic toes. When I can finally move into my new studio, it is sure to translate into some interesting moments on canvas as well. In the mean time, I have carved out a small patch of space amidst the stockpile of extraneous possessions so that I can work, since it is in the act of painting that I am reminded of why I chose to make this rather significant mess in the first place and the benefits of engaging in life challenges that test one's creativity - It's all about staying sharp.