Maybe it’s because I grew up in Arizona 💀🌵…but I find myself SO moved by the change of season. It’s like each new season stirs up perspectives and emotions I hadn’t realized I’d been missing.
And springtime always feels especially energetic to me. I’ve been going on these long walks every day for the past few weeks, and I’ll catch myself inspecting every dry branch as I walk by—just looking for the tiniest hints of buds. It’s all very exciting.
So I’m not surprised that I’m feeling extra lively about my creative projects, as well.
This month’s batch of guests feels frankly magical. And while that might be like…20% my dreamy spring vibes, I think I’m not wrong about it. They all had such beautiful things to say. As I looked through my notes on each of these three conversations, I found a pattern that fairly thrills me…
But I think I’ll start with my own perspective here.
Throughout the past few years since I’ve started taking a close look at my family traumas, I’ve really struggled with my identity as an artist. On the one hand, for the first time in my life I feel free to honor my own preferences, passions, strengths, and intuition. On the other, I’ve spent so many years living in trauma responses and survival strategies that valuable parts of my personality and artistry really have been shaped along an alternate path.
So, I feel divided.
The intuitive part of me feels unfettered. When I’m living through that lens, I create things that seem wild and magical.
And the logical part of me—the self who took the reins during the hardest years of my life—is measured and motivated in a way that I love, just as well! She plans and executes with such grace.
And I’ve realized that I want to keep both. Moreover, I think I simply am both. But I worry a lot that people will only accept me as one or the other. And I’m not yet sure how to integrate these components of myself into one artful whole. If you heard my monologue at the beginning of the month, you’ll know this been a predominant focus for me lately.
I was predictably delighted to hear each and every one of my March guests bring up identity integration in one way or another.
My dear friend Reed talked about a phenomenon that all art educators will recognize. He described the beginning of a rehearsal—having to feign energy and intensity in order to motivate the choir. And then, after some time, feeling that same level of false energy matched or surpassed by genuine exuberance.
As an artist, Reed is simultaneously a person who performs energy convincingly, and a person whose passion and creativity generates its own vitality. And while these parts are not integrated per se, they are matched, parallel, symmetrical. During our conversation, he wondered aloud whether his choir members could ever possibly perceive the shift between the two. My guess is they would never know…
Christian and I talked about the sneaking suspicion that “artists” are a certain kind of other people—enchanted in an intangible way somehow beyond one’s normal-feeling self. Of course, when we experience paradigm-shifting art, it’s easy to feel that it must have been created by a heightened kind of being.
But as we were talking, Christian remembered something written by George Saunders…I couldn’t find the exact quote, but Christian paraphrased it well. The idea is that the person who created the piece/work doesn’t actually exist at all. Rather, the artist sits down to work as her lazy-self one day, her arrogant-self the next, the conscientious or meticulous-self another…the sleepy-self, the hungover-self, the blissful-self…and each “self” passes off on, or approves of the work until finally the creation has been, in effect, molded by many separate individuals.
I love this idea more than I can say. To me, it implies that the “self” I am on any given day doesn’t need to feel like a whole artist. As long as my amalgamated self is artful, I can create art. I imagine many artists feel this way.
Alternately though, Julia (aka Jera) is the kind of ethereal artist who somehow has managed a seamlessness between her person and her work. She creates art on herself with clothing, makeup, and vivid hair dyes. She creates visual art using mediums traditional and new—paint, pencils, ink, digital media. She makes music using both her literal and figurative voices. She conceives of language, characters, and phonemes as malleable, dynamic specimens. And she cultivates intangible, “living” art in the way she moves through the world, in the way she mentors other artists, in the way she withholds judgement from people and their creations.
…All of these ideas leave me feeling inspired, and at ease.
I think maybe there needn’t be so much pressure to integrate thoroughly. Though, it seems a thing to consider with care.
Per usual, I’m so grateful for my incredible guests. As I wrap up two full years of Artifice, I feel a bit overwhelmed with the way this project beautifies my life.
I hope you feel it, too.