...To Be An Artist...

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(This is my response to all of the heated discussion over
Zom Osbourne's beautiful blog post:



In my early twenties, when I was in Art School and working for the Cleveland Museum of Art, I had a very narrow and rigid view of what an Artist is and who was "worthy" enough of such a title. On top of it all--my love of writing and Art led me to a degree in Art History--which helped me refine my elitist beliefs even more during those years.

But what happened is that I accidentally fell into teaching and I began to notice first hand the impact Art had on people's lives.

Everyday people. Not just a chosen few.

I remember carrying my groceries back home after a visit to the West Side Market in Cleveland when this woman slammed on her brakes in the middle of the street, did a u-ey, and parked on the edge of the sidewalk--just so her whole family could meet me. "You changed my life--and my marriage." she told me.

And when her kids and husband crawled back into the mini-van, with tears in her eyes she hugged me tight and said she could never thank me enough....I had helped her become an Artist.

I was only 20 years old carrying a bag of fruit and veggies I was praying would get me through the week. She must have been at least 30 years older than me with a ring on her finger that equalled three years of my paychecks and a life that seemed completely foreign.

And the one word that connected us both was Artist.

I knew then that there was more to this label than I was taught and conditioned to believe. I just didn't know where to look...who to turn to. But I always came back to teaching--because to me--that's where the heart was pumping and the spirit soars. Something about a group of people gathered together all in the name of creativity and expression. It doesn't matter what the medium is or how much experience you have or if you make Art your vocation, career, or weekend hobby--at that very moment and time, we are all Artists.

To be honest with you...years ago if someone asked me what makes someone an Artist and someone not-- I would have whipped out a blog post so strong and slick and clever that even Clement Greenberg would have risen from the dead just to read it.

But the fact is...I don't care anymore. I stopped caring about what makes someone an Artist and what doesn't the day I quit working at the Art museum.

I made a conscious decision from that moment on that I wanted to know what connects us as Artists instead of what divides us or even defines us.

Because lets get real. At the end of the day--no matter if you are some millionaire Artist with a fancy studio in NYC or some sweet little lady dabbling in your Art journal on the kitchen table in the middle of Wisconsin....it is us...Artists...that can make real positive change happen in this world....

no matter what side of the imaginary fence you are creating on.

16 comments:

cath said...

I saw your link posted on a friend's page, and as I read your post, I felt as though I was reading my own life.

I have been an artist all my life. Not classically trained. Just driven to draw and paint by an inner spirit.

About one year ago my sister and I opened a studio in Suisun City California to provide her with an alternative business to her gift shop, which was dying due to the economy. We gave 3 hour art experiences, and people would carry home completed works of art at the end of their experience.

The surprise for me was the joy experienced by my sisters (we have a younger sister too) and these people who come to take classes from us. She also teaches, and has only been painting for a little over a year. It has been life changing for us both.

And I now realize that the term "artist" is a relative one. and that I have as much impact as a teacher on peoples' lives as I do with my patients as a nurse (I am also an RN). Art changes lives!

Thank you so much for this post!

ainelivia said...

This is THE post Connie, it is out of your experience, so there's no need for the slick and the clever. artists are everywhere, they are just not necessarily names. everyone who has a need in them to create is an artist, and your post shows me this... thank u for posting it. (-: may your creativity go with you always...

lacajitamagica.org said...

Thank you for this post. I've been enjoying your blog for a while now, but recently you've chased me out of my comfort zone with your insights that make me want to type out loud WELL DONE girl.
This is so true. We are all artist in a way and when we let the energy of creativity come in our lives it refreshes everything in it.
Beautiful words.
Namaste.

Cynthia said...

When I read the other post, at first I got a bit irritated. Justifications flew to my lips, attempts to validate my experience.

But then I stopped, I breathed and I realized that it is just one person's opinion and she can have that opinion. I just don't share it.

Until I began to call myself an artist, I didn't make the room and the time for the work in my life. The work didn't make me an artist but believing that I am an artist made space for the work.

And that is my experience, my journey, my opinion.

I watched a documentary yesterday, The Parking Lot ... about employees of The Corner Parking Lot in Charlottesville, VA. One of the men said, "working here has taught me to be a good human being." and I wrote on my blog that that is my wish for my children ... that their work, whether paid or not, would teach them how to be good human beings.

I feel the same way about this work of an artist ... whether paid or not, whether it ends up in a gallery or not, whether validated by someone else or not ... will it teach me to be a good human being?

Thanks Connie for your words, your spirit, your encouragement. You are inspiring ... breathing life into these new and old artists soul. That is a beautiful work.

TheAmpleGoddess said...

I will still avoid the word 'artist'.. I prefer to call myself a creative. I create all sorts of things, but is what I do considered art? Then you get into the discussion of "what is art". One's man trash is another man's treasure. There's too much attached to the word.

Joanna Paterson said...

I love the way you've put this.

Your words remind of this quote from E M Forster,

"Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer"

What could we all do if we pursued the connections rather than worrying about the labels? :-)

Tracie said...

Hallelujah! I saw a similar discussion on another blog recently and opted not to comment - it was her opinion, to which she was absolutely entitled.

I knew I could never agree with anything she had said. I honestly tried to open my mind to her point, but failed miserably. I doubt either of us would have convinced the other.

I am so very glad I hold the same opinion as you, my dear Connie. Yes "what connects us as Artists instead of what divides or even defines us." Swoon. Well done.

Fugzilla said...

Beautiful post. I think, personally, that everyone is an artist. I see my children as they draw on the walls, tables, color in their coloring books, or filling hundreds of my typing paper pages with their colored markings, and I know they are artists. Maybe some artists are considered better artists than others, but we are still all artists. It isn't about being a rich or successful artists, but its about the feeling we get as we create art. Its also about the feeling others get when they see our art. I know when my kids draw me something, it really makes my day. I can look back at art they created several years back, and it still makes my heart happy. Everyone is an artist.

Sharon said...

Great post, Connie, and I couldn't agree with you more! :)

Yvonne said...

THANKS!

Laura Zato Art & Photography said...

This is great post! Thanks! Just what I needed to hear today

Beverley said...

Thank you Connie for such an excellent blog post.

linda said...

Following the posts on this discussion and love what you have written. I think it is very inspiring and ultimately... it all depends on how one defines the word/label "Artist". I suppose we all have to realize it can mean different things for different people...so we simply need to do whatever works for us... proclaim being an Artist or not...whatever...but don't stop doing what you want to do most of all!

Sharon Field / Created By You said...

I've just discovered your blog, and looking through the old posts when I came across this one. I love teaching too... and creating.. each day is a new discovery, and I find I am my own worst critic. What you've stated about being an artist resounds from within... and I cannot agree with you more! I learn so much from my students, from children, and from just allowing myself creative opportunities and exploring the possibles. LOVE your insight! Thanks for sharing!

Marvin Piqué said...

Great! I just found this website and will read some more later. I love all kinds of artists and artistic brains. Life would be so boring without them. Thank you all for being creative and creating art!

fani said...

Thank you...Thank you so much for this post.