Monday, December 19, 2016

Opinions. Everyone has one.

Recently, I had a fellow artist comment on a piece of work that I created.  I welcome comments.  I’m always surprised when people take the time to comment on my work, so positive or negative, comments are always welcome.  In this instance, the artist did not like the piece. This is fine. Art is subjective and abstract art in particular is very subjective.  Most people either like it or hate it. There is rarely an in between feeling toward abstract art. At least, this is what I have found.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion.

My Skin (c) 2016 Trisha Leigh Shufelt

To be honest, I’m not actually fond of this piece. I’ve rather crudely nicknamed it, The Golden Turd. 

However, it was not the opinion of the piece that bothered me, it was the interpretation this fellow artist had of the process by which I create, and their projection of how I should create. 

For those who are unaware of how I create art, let me give you a brief breakdown.  When I create abstract art, I often choose a piece of music and tune into the energy it evokes though the music and lyrics.  Sometimes, I have a particular piece of music in mind, but often it is random. While on rotation, the piece will produce colors and visuals in my mind, which I interpret and put onto canvas.  This process actually has a name and is called, Synesthesia.  There are several forms. I won’t bore you with them. You can look it up for yourself.  Many creative types possess this ability.  I’ll be honest; I didn’t know what it was that I was doing actually had a name until recently.  For this particular piece, I had chosen a song called, My Skin, by Natalie Merchant, I had heard on Pandora for the first time that very day.  I thought the melody was stirring, emotional, beautiful, and the lyrics were evocative. My crude interpretation of my own art has nothing to do with Ms. Merchants lyrics, which I feel are brilliant.

These are the lyrics by Natalie Merchant~
Take a look at my body, look at my hands
There's so much here that I don't understand
Your face saving promises, whisper like prayers
And I don't need them
'Cause I've been treated so wrong, I've been treated so long
As if I'm becoming untouchable
Well, contempt loves the silence, it thrives in the dark
The fine winding tendrils that strangle the heart
They say that promises sweeten the blow
But I don't need them, no I don't need them
I've been treated so wrong, I've been treated so long
As if I'm becoming untouchable
I'm a slow dying flower in the frost killing hour
Sweet turning sour and untouchable
Oh, I need
The darkness
The sweetness
The sadness
The weakness
Oh, I need this
Need a lullaby
A kiss goodnight
Angel, sweet love of my life
Oh, I need this
I'm a slow dying flower, frost killing hour
The sweet turning sour and untouchable
Do you remember the way that you touched me before
All the trembling sweetness, I loved and adored
Your face saving promises, whispered like prayers
I don't need them
I need the darkness
The sweetness
The sadness
The weakness
Oh, I need this
I need a lullaby
A kiss goodnight
Angel, sweet love of my life
Oh, I need this
Well, is it dark enough
Can you see me?
Do you want me?
Can you reach me?
Or I'm leaving
Then you shut your mouth
And hold your breath
You kiss me now
You catch your death
Oh, I mean this
Oh, I mean this

As, I listened to the song on the first go around, I immediately was struck by the color red. Love, pain, fear, anger, and the root of survival.  Yes, black and darkness came to mind. I then could see a cocoon and then gold.  Healing scars with gold~a Japanese pottery technique. After, several more rotations, the piece was born. Can I relate to the lyrics? Yes.  I think many of us can or have related to this experience at one time or another. 

While the other artist expressed a general overall dislike for the piece, it was more than the dislike that struck me.  What they truly did not like were the lyrics I had chosen, and that by listening to this song on rotation, I was allowing myself to become stuck in the darkness.  While I appreciate their concern for my well-being, and assured them that the process by which I paint did not spiral me into the abyss, I found this advice rather unsettling.  Normally, I would just dismiss this, but something inside of me felt this was not a moment where I should remain silent.  First, art is about creation. It is about interpretation of emotions. It is sometimes therapy.   Sometimes, it is just about releasing energy and making a magical mess in the process.  Just as life is a balance of dark and light, so is art.  Sometimes, I create very soft and ethereal pieces. Other times, I create hard and dark pieces.  I explained to the artist, not everything I do is sunshine and rainbows.  While it may be a reflection of my mood, it may also be a reflection of what I am tuning into, i.e., the music.  I never become trapped within my creations. Instead, I create, I release. I let go.  I create some more. I create many things. So, that is the process. 

Now, for me, the nerve that was struck by this fellow artist’s comments went very deep. This wasn’t about whether or not the person liked my art. No, this was a critique about how I create and perhaps. what I should create. The fact that it came from a fellow artist was even more bothersome.  It is a fascinating and yet, disturbing trend that I am seeing more and more. Actors, musicians and artists seem to be taking the brunt of it.  Don’t talk politics; just entertain us.  While this was clearly not about politics, it was about the way in which I communicated my sense of self though my art. When you try to silence my process, you are trying to silence me. Art is self expression. Art should shake you up and get you thinking.  In the process, it may get you thinking about the very things that you need to work on within yourself.  It may make you uncomfortable. If it strikes a nerve, it is because something needs healing and integrating within the self.  And yes, this struck a nerve. Therefore, I am working on the healing of that within myself.   WE seem to be living in a time where the lack of control in the world around us, forces us to want to control how others think, feel and behave.  It is often masked by concern, fear, or for the so called greater good.  My suggestion is to self-check before you express your opinion. Where is it truly coming from? To quote my Reiki teacher, “Checky. Checky.”

And for the creative types, don’t let your voice be silenced by the key stroke or opinions of others. Keep creating thought provoking material. Keep using your voice. Never let anyone’s opinion silence you, or dictate what, or how you create art.