Photo Credit: Maria Ellen Photography
Awhile ago, I had the pleasure of going to the Italian Fashion Exhibit at the Frist Center for the visual arts, and it was fabulous. So much detail, so many beads, so many layers of fabulous fabric beautifully hand-crafted as an art form. There was also a Jaume Plensa exhibit and one of his pieces, composed of letters, foreign words and all sorts of text really struck me. In the plaque about the piece (and I’m probably not quoting verbatim), he mentioned something like this:
“One letter seems nothing but in association with others they could compose a word. One word with another word could compose a text. A text with another text.” I thought about this in regards to being an artist. As an artist, you are one. But when you start connecting the dots from artist to artist and building community, you begin to be enriched. Your medium of art becomes richer, more developed, more intense with emotion and relation to something outside your tiny world of self art. The art then becomes a piece in a larger painting, and you can find your place of belonging in the realm of creativity. The idea of individuality is great, but in relation to a larger picture, it has more context. If you are an artist, think about yourself more as a word in context. Here are some ways to think of art in terms of context:
1. Don’t restrict your music to just being influenced by what you can give to it. Let other artists influence it, help paint a stroke on the canvas and move it forward in a direction you might not have considered before. Sometimes the growth comes from the interaction with others.
2. Don’t try too grip tightly onto it like a helicopter parent. Realize that music is an entity all it’s own that moves and breathes and has to become. A song sometimes is something you can’t control. You need to let it happen naturally. I’ve heard people in the recording industry talk about it in terms of what is needed to “best serve the song.” It’s like having a love for your music as if it were a child, and you would do well to let it have room to become.
3. As an artist, consider that you are not merely an isolated creative force. Rather, you are a force being acted on and acting on others every day as an inspiration and a muse. And take it a step further, and don’t only let your career be focused on pushing your music into the atmosphere. Don’t merely shout, but listen. Connect with others, offer them help when they need it, volunteer with your other musical friends and build relationships instead of just trying to take something all the time.
When I see others who seem to be just waltzing through with roses everywhere, I tend to get discouraged. Some days I’m not sure what to do with these gifts I’ve been given. Perhaps other artists’ paths are not as winding as mine have been. But those uncertain times are those that build our faith and teach us to trust. Maybe we must first be lost to then find ourselves.