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Monday, January 02, 2006

Defining Terms

One of the things that people ask you when they meet you first is 'So what is it you do...'. I have two options as answers. One is the long version...well, I was retired on health grounds at the tender age of 38, since when I've been at home, where I make all sorts of art... The response to that is usually a stunned silence followed by embarrassed mutterings, especially if I mention that the problem is depression, which is apparently Not Quite The Thing. The other is the short, and, in my experience, preferred answer, 'I'm an artist'. The response to that is, oh, and do you sell your sort of thing? I usually say, well, sometimes. If I'm feeling really narky, though, I'll wonder why you're only an artist if you sell stuff.

It's a shame that nobody ever asks the interesting, why are you an artist? Or, how are you an artist?

I am an artist, because I want to be more fully myself. My version of artist is that of the explorer. I explore all the possibilities I can think of. The possibilities of materials, from paper to sticks through canvas to metal, wax and, of course paint. The possibilities of colour, line, shape and texture. The possibilities of meaning. My own possibilities...interpreting and reinterpreting who I am, how I relate to the world, what it means to be me. I reach for things, asking, what are you? How can I make everyone else see what I see in you?

My version of artist is is also an archaeologist. I poke about in memories and dreams, pulling together shards of thought and theory, reaching an understanding of what they might mean, and making images that somehow indicate that meaning, without being so explicit that I spoil it for everyone else, their dreams and memories... I imagine a life with such a thing or without it, reach for strands of meaning to link together unlikely images or colours. Ask myself endless questions...what colour would that thought be? What shape?

And after all that, I just make the work.

What kind of artist are you?


annabel said...

I can't bring myself to call myself an artist. It means so much to so many people and they all have different expectations. It's too big a word for me. I flounder at how best to describe myself when people ask and end up saying something like, I work from home. All help on this one would be appreciated!!

marion said...

Go sit in front of the mirror, annabel, and practice saying the words until they sound familiar to your ears. Then try it out with people who know you..and find that they agree with you...and then go for everyone else. Is the world going to end if you call yourself an artist? What's the worst thing that could possibly happen if you did?

Anonymous said...

Funny how it was easier to say I am a writer, even though I only had a very small amount published and most wasn't for money, but copies, etc. But saying, "I am an artist," takes guts. It seems harder than saying I'm a writer....

I should think about this. And it should not be based on making money or not.