Sunday, January 07, 2007

Today I am an artist

The luggage arrived (at my door at 1am that normal?) with all of my cords and cables. However, I'm going to put off talking about Grenada and Christmas loot. Because today, for the maybe first time ever, I feel like an artist.

Brant has been commissioned to repair and repaint a mural on Livingston Campus at Rutgers. The deadline is soon, and due to student break the accessibility to the building has been really, really limited. Thus, since he had to work this weekend, I went in alone.

The mural is huge - 9 feet tall by 60 feet wide. It's overwhelmingly big, which is why I devoted my entire weekend to it, trying to chip away at the amount of work left ahead of us.

Up until today I've been very deferential to Brant, giving him all of the credit, calling myself his lackey or his groupie. But today as people were asking me about the mural I found myself taking some ownership of the work we're doing.

I've had many conversations with people, trying to understand what makes an artist. I think it boils down to talent and creativity. Well-intentioned friends have called me an artist, pointing to the way I incorporate found objects into my home decor and the way I dress and put colors together. Brant reassures me that no one is born with drawing skills, they simply have an aptitude that they hone through practice and repetition. Yet I've never really felt like an artist.

My role models are expanding. This guy has been accused (in my presence) of making crafts rather than making art. But what is it that throws people? The repetition? The materials he uses? I also just acquired this book, and the creativity of her designs goes beyond the rearrangement of traditional knitting motifs and patterns that so many designers use. I've also seen so much art that has made me think - "I could do that!" But that's the difference between artists and the rest of us - not only did they think of something, they also did it. And that's another element of being an artist - following through on an idea and putting in the work to get something done. (There is a contemporary artist who would dispute this - was it George Brecht? - as he would simply frame a card with the idea for a piece of art. If you wanted to, you could follow the instructions and make the indicated piece, but in his definition of art it was the conception rather than the execution that mattered)

Today I felt like an artist because I was painting. I have developed some skill - I'm not great, but I recognize the vast improvement I've achieved thanks to hours of holding a brush. And although the design is not my own, I'm interpreting as I go, doing my best to match color and intent, and there is a teensy element of creativity in that.


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