My professor asked us when the last time was that we were scared stiff. I can honestly say that it was last week, or the week before, or the month before that, when I stood in front of a blank piece of paper stapled to my studio wall, or more than that, thought of creating a project or art that would make a difference in my community. Or perhaps in this very position, my fingers on the keyboard, but literally, scared stiff and immovable at the strong possibility, even probability, of making something ugly, or worse, far worse, something meaningless. So scared that perhaps I created nothing at all, and I don’t know which makes me more distraught.

I feel as if I'm always in crisis. It keeps me alive. I don't speak of the crisis often associated with those elusive hard times or trials spoken of across the pulpit in fast and testimony meeting, and I don't mean that in pejorative terms, I just mean that I thrive in the ambiguity and drama of living and creating, because out of the greatest conflict comes the greatest beauty. So in speaking of my crisis, I adore it, accept it as a faithful companion and don't wish for it to leave, I don't really even want a break from it. That doesn't mean that there aren't times when I despise it however, or times that it makes me cry. I think in the church we sometimes pity the crisis and praise God for taking us from it, when really to live a while in the inevitable human conflict and confusion, perhaps to even embrace it without wondering what or who we are dissenting, but rather loving each other, supporting each other in spite of it all, (and perhaps the antecedent to that 'it' in the last fragment is simply the institution), would change the world in the ways that would actually change it. The crisis with which I reside is a question of creation, well, I suppose there are many crisis' we all live with, but the one I want to address today is that of creation.

Creation is such a strong and connotative word. You can barely utter it without the implications of God proceeding, which is actually a rather beautiful idea. We can place a word in a sentence that connects us to everyone and everything around us. God is a creator, my grandma is a creator, my dad is a creator, my neighbor is a creator, i am a creator. I didn't plan for these thoughts to be so entirely religiously based, I planned to talk about art, performance and community art, but I suppose that is why we write things, to know what we think, and I'm grateful to know that everything is so connected. I also want to apologize upfront, or I guess at this point, middlefront, in saying that I feel nervous in posting things on a blog because I don't know what place I have putting my thoughts and ideas into the public, and I sometimes want to apologize (i've been scolded for this) to the people reading, often writing is a form for thoughts to first be birthed into something tangible, and therefore the moment can be melodramatic, ambiguous or still fully layered and scared of unveiling itself to the world, however small that world may be. If you are reading this however, I hope it means something, in some way.

It is not impractical to change the rules of the game when the game is clearly killing you. -m.scott peck

I've been having a hard time going to my studio for the past year, and for that matter, sometimes my classes. Last semester I refused to go to a certain class for over three weeks, I felt like the professor spouted off opinion and biased doctrine, mostly about the need for us to make money as artists, to become professional, to sell ourselves, the fact that art and creation was about a market system in which we would need to wear very expensive black dresses to openings where only very wealthy people would be invited, and they might just buy our painting without even looking at it, but because they researched the name, and it was valuable. One class I was so infuriated by the whole situation that my hands were shaking. I raised my hand and made some comment about art being a catalyst for change among all people, and that all people have a right to it's access and then left class. I'm sure the professor was confused because I hate confrontation and my voice shakes when I attempt it. At the end of the semester the professor asked us to write a note to him defending the grade we thought we deserved and why. I told him he could give me what ever grade he wanted, I didn't care. He gave me an A, which perhaps only served to frustrate me more. I tell this story not to glory in my quiet defiance, because honestly I'm a little embarrassed that I couldn't just sit through class and find the good in what was being said, I tell it because I've thought so much about what our responsibility to society and the earth is as creators. I think we need to take responsibility for that thought and action, in whatever form we choose to pursue it.

I mentioned that I've had a hard time going to my studio and classes, and I've tried to come up with some reasons that I can understand. I've been tutoring an 11 year old mexican boy for the past month. He came here with his parents and two sisters about 6 months ago, he doesn't speak a lick of english and his teacher doesn't speak a lick of spanish. The boy doesn't read or write in either language. He lives in a trailer park by the mall. All this happening in my own community, and I hear so little of it, if any. What is my responsibility to make art or organize projects that will affect and bless the life of this boy? I believe there is a responsibility. What stewardship do I have to create things that address the treatment of gays and lesbians in the church? What is my responsibility to organize and plan things that will get people out of their houses, off couches and talking to one another? What is my responsibility to help someone else learn to create on their own? All these questions are pressing around me when I make art. And are the reasons that I feel frustrated with syllabus', grades, assignments. This morning I was told that in order to graduate I would need to take an Art 100 course and a sophomore writing class in order to graduate. The system hurts my ability to be a productive member of society. Perhaps all of this is just a sign that I am an expired undergraduate who needs to move on. I do feel terribly indebted for my education and professors who require us to think and create for ourselves and not to a grade, because without that, I wouldn't be apt to criticize and want to change the system.

I feel sad because I feel like this is getting long and I haven't even really begun to adequately express or diagram what I feel or how I got there. I feel absolute urgency and excitement at the thought of art, writing, theater, projects, as catalysts for change, happiness, acceptance and thought. Art is political, it is a means of activism and progression.

I'm have a few projects in mind that I want to start on, they would involve, of course, people and fun. Let me know if you would be interested in collaborating.

I am going to leave this with a few websites I found that made me so excited:

...it is not enough for philosophers--or I would add, artists--to create or express an idea; they must also awaken the experiences that will make their idea take root in the consciousness of others...'when did it happen that working with kids because a saintly, do-gooder thing? It's a basic duty of society...' We don't just want to paint our communities. We want to find out something about the world. - Susie Gablik, from 'The Reechantment of Art'.

Much love, ashmae


Gritty Pretty said...

Blessings upon you Ashmae! This post is beautiful and all the community work that you do inspires me to no end!

ElPato said...

I've been scared before. Once I stood beneath a tree, emptying a wet vac and lightning struck twenty feet above my head. The other time I worked offshore and the steel from an oil rig shot straight at my head.

But, yes, now that I have my Master's I guess tests are scary too. My point is that they shouldn't be.

Alex Ungerman said...

I found ye blog!!! Comments to follow!

shelly said...

I have a couple of instances where I was literally scared stiff...it scares me too much to talk about them...

Ashley, I really wish you lived down here so you could teach me watercolor. I've said I was going to take classes for the last 25 years and I haven't done it yet. I have a yearning to do it, somewhere, way deep inside my blood and don't know how to get it out! Some day soon..mark my words!

shelly said...

I LOVED the quote about how working with kids somehow has become a "do-gooder" thing, but is instead, a duty. So true!

Steve Morrison said...

I enjoy your thoughts, Ash. I think great art does not just offer you it's meaning, rather, it gets meanings started in others. Creation is something I think about constantly...God's Creation was accomplished through a series of divisions or separations (light/dark, land/water, etc.). But I think this is only half the story--the rest of creation is the Atonement, which reunites all these divisions, and this is something we can all be a part, whether or not we are artists by trade. I think any time we recognize things that are broken and try to bring them back together we are creating. Artists do this by organizing an image into something that is harmonious and makes visual sense, and also by literally bringing people together as viewers.

Sorry, the weight of my prose is crushing my soapbox, so I'd best step off...

Little Lisa said...


Nicole said...

I also found your blog.