Who is the artist here?

by Ellen in ,


I had a really long conversation with one of my photo teachers today about art. He and I have very similar backgrounds-- we both got degrees in Art History before becoming "photographers" and moving to San Francisco. But he has an identical twin. That's pretty cool. Anyway, we have a lot in common, and we ended up talking for an hour, instead of our allotted 15 minutes. Whoops.

His first question: "Why photography?"
My first answer: "...Because I can't paint...?"
Him: "Wrong."
Me: "OK, then why photography?"
Him: "I asked you first."
Me: "I answered. It's your turn."
Him: "This is not about me."
Me: "I don't care."
Him: "OK, because I want to be out in the world, becoming a part of it. Right?"
Me: "Right!"

Then I told him I didn't feel like an artist, and he wrote my name on a piece of paper, signed his name, and titled it, "Artistic License."

He's clever. I like him.

He was mad at me because I couldn't take off the blinders I have as an art historian (also something I actually AM), because I have conditioned myself to think a certain way about art, and I, as an "artist," do not fit into my own previously defined categories of art.

I have an issue with labels...I'm pretty sure it has something to do with my love for Existentialism. I don't consider myself an artist, an art historian, or any such being that uses creative processes to produce things. I don't know why, when I am much more apt to tell people that I'm a youth minister than an artist. Maybe it's because I've had to tell so many people that I'm a youth minister, and that's why it sits well with me. It's comfortable, like my favorite shoes. It sounds normal coming out of my mouth...and then people say, "I knew you did something like that. I could just tell."

Maybe I need to figure out a way for the artistic-ness to just radiate out of me. I'm fine with saying I'm a girl. Because I am, and people know that. I'm fine with saying I'm an Episcopalian, because people can get that, too. But an "artist"? People have an idea in their head of what an artist is supposed to look like, and I feel like I do not fit that mold. I don't wear black (like most everyone does here), I take showers regularly, and I don't brood. I may be teetering on the edge of starving, which is about as close as it gets for me being seen as an "artist." Oh, and I'm blonde. There aren't a lot of those here. I'm not sure why art schools lack people with smily, happy faces and sunny dispositions. If only they could see themselves from a bird's eye, then they might wonder. It is really weird. Generally speaking, of course. Not everyone is this way.

I can't tell you how many papers about art I have written, and never once did I write from an artist's perspective. I have never thought about what it would be like to have papers written about me, analyzing every detail of my work, sometimes even perhaps thinking a little too hard about it. I'm not practiced in writing statements about anything creative that I have produced from my own head. It's terrifying to think about...just putting it all out there for people to inspect and dissect. Yuck.

I am just now sort of getting it. I'm not kidding, right this second, as I'm sitting here writing this, I had some thoughts.

While I was talking with my teacher, he asked what my "practice" in art was. I had been somewhat prepared for this question, rehearsing my smart-sounding answer to myself. I started in on that, but I didn't really like what was coming out of my mouth. And then the word vomit. I said exactly this: "I have NO idea what my art "practice" is, or how I go about taking a photo of something. But I DO know what my life practice is: I really try to love people, and see their significance."

WHEN HAVE I EVER SAID THESE THINGS? I'll tell you--NEVER.

And why did I choose to say them in the lamest way possible? I might as well go and live with the Tanners, I'm THAT cheesy. Wanna know who says things like that? Self-righteous jerks.

BUT, in being so lame, I did discover that my life practice IS my art practice. They are not mutually exclusive, and they LOVE each other and go really well together. All of this is so hard for me because it's my LIFE. It's my covenant with God, everybody else, and my camera. They, in fact, do not all live in their own compartments...they all live under one roof, working out their issues and and picking up one another's slack. Now you know what the inside of my head looks like.

Speaking of things I think about, I haven't shown you my pot I made. It's not fired yet.



Yes, it is supposed to look like a nice, exercised, man-handled bottom from any angle.

I'll post again when it's fired. The kilns exploded yesterday, because this girl made this GIANT bee-hive pot looking thing and tired to fire it, and it exploded along with the kiln. Cool.