I was asked today when I knew that I was an artist. As early as I can remember I would draw. I was always reading as a child as well, I think I probably read the most when I was a child. I would walk and read on my way to school, I would read in closets and other hideaways, I would climb trees and read. My dad would take my sister and I to a bookstore and say, you can buy any books you want, any. He was a prolific reader, still is, and that was a great gift he gave to us. So while my sister would buy Goosebumbs or Baby Sitters Club, I would buy Darwins Orgin of Species, history books and true crime serial killer books. I also took to reading dictionaries. I was always a strange child. I read anything and everything, and that set a foundation for learning that would course my whole life. Curiosity, it can't be undervalued. Surprisingly or not surprisingly I did not fare well in regular school, and did not excel until I was put in a middle school for the arts. Here I flourished and was placed in academic honors and this too would change learning for me. I began writing poetry and began to see that expression would be my salvation. High school I took four years in ceramics, photography and I was in a singing and dancing choir. I was deeply involved in theatre and was the lead in several plays. I always wanted to be a character actor, but was always cast as the damsel in distress. I took to acting because I could be anything I wanted, it was a relief from an confused sense of self that I had negotiated most of my life. College came and at my mothers suggestion, as I became overwhelmed and lost in the world of academia, that I drop anything but the mandatory classes, and instead pack my schedule with the arts. It was a brilliant idea, and I spent my first year in acting, African dance, creative writing, life drawing and any other art class I could get in to without being a major. I have a Bachelors degree in Women Studies, sans two language courses and eventually graduated with my degree in Art, simply because looking at my transcripts the university said I had enough credits to graduate with it. My life was living in the Honors College and art. Watercolor, ceramics, drawing, sculpture, book making, screen printing, design, photography and a taking to all Mexican art and History of Mexican photography. My life and view found its foundation in Women's Studies, classes like Women as Healers, Queer Theory, Art and Activism, Race/Class/Gender and Women and the Body. I made angry, political art and could see no place for aesthetics in such a divided time and world. I wrote and performed slam poetry in front of at times, hundreds of people. I had continued in theatre and loved improv. I wrote prolifically. Despite all of the arts, I had not yet began painting. Painting classes were restricted to painting majors and the first time I used oil paint was probably six years ago. Acrylic in earnest, three years ago. I had previously dabbled in acrylic painting and had long used charcoal for the visual art I was creating. Today I use oil paint for all of my works on canvas, and acrylic paint for all murals. The last three years have been a whirlwind of painting on a public scale, and my skill set has had to grow with each new artistic endeavor. I still have a very full life in the arts, I write, I take photographs, I read and I dance. It is still my salvation.
There is a part of me that has fought for me every step of the way. From the interlopers who might take away my belief in myself. From good friends mired in self doubt who want company, to people who shame women for being ornate or having self worth, for fear of women who are bold or take chances, to fear based viewpoints and to people genuinely shocked to see a woman do what I do. To my innermost self I consider myself a designer, a creator, that title brings me the most joy. I feel that my past, my education, my shortcomings and my defiance, have prepared me for the life I lead today. And the life I will be stepping into.
Art has buffered my life in a way that nothing else could have, art at its most fundamental, is humanity expressing itself. I feel most at ease with those who thrive in this space, the freedom of creation, the tenacity and bravery that art requires. That life requires. The commitment. The vulnerability. Many people think that being an artist offers absolute freedom, when in truth it invites both scrutiny and celebration. And it is best to take both with a grain of salt.
My greatest wish is to be of maximum service, to not waste my skills to fear. Fear is a powerful destructor and it has killed more dreams than failure ever has. And often when I talk with people I will see that this is where we differ, we have different enemies. I am not in competition with other artists, or women, or men or Donald Trump. I am in competition only with fear. Crystal clear, daunting and piercing in its efficiency, it is my sole enemy.
Every painting, every project, every time I step into self expression, every idea I fight this enemy. The voice that tells me the idea is bad or wrong, that I am a dreamer and that it can't be done. Cutting and biting I have trained myself to hear fear's voice and to separate it from my own. I wrap myself in the faith that this is what is meant to be, that I am destined and protected. That life celebrates in my bravery and that the Universe will find the way. Audacious faith. I protect my tender, tender hope and I take actions on its behalf. Sometimes the action is to do nothing, sometimes it is to laugh until I cry with an amazing group of friends, sometimes it's to completely surrender, and sometimes it is to fight. To trudge. To prevail. And life, with profound accuracy has always shown up, the way is always made.
I have to believe that life wants me whole, flawed and fabulous. That when I shrink, that I serve no one. That when I act one time on behalf of all the people who cannot, that the whole world shifts. The whole world, shifting under our creative power. What choice we have, what divine, divine choice. That is my lifesong, and I have to sing it to myself everyday. Sometimes I am all alone, and it's just me singing to God. And faintly in the distance, I hear God singing back. Looking back at me through flowers and skies, through color and eyes, people and places, divine and inspired. Perhaps that's all it ever is. Dancing in the dark. I am grateful for the opportunity.