“Art is not some fun add-on to life…Go back to the Ice Age and the artists then were still making art even when living constantly under threat from starvation, cold and predators … The need to express oneself runs very, very deep. Because of course, art’s primary role is not as an asset class and it’s not necessarily about an urban-regeneration catalyst. It’s most important role is to make meaning….

If there’s one message that I want you to take away it’s that anybody can enjoy art and anybody can have a life in the arts… The art world needs people to keep asking it questions, and thinking about those questions helps the enjoyment and understanding of art.”                                                                                            -Grayson Perry, Playing to the Gallery

Close your eyes for a moment. Try isolating where the need for creative expression originates from in your own life. Think of the generational transmission of knowledge in order to produce essential objects for everyday living. How might it have been different for your ancestors, how have our problems remained the same over the generations? Not entirely dissimilar experiences, right? Think about all the neolithic instincts bubbling up through us still, being transmitted via space-age technology for the world to see and the future to look back on.

studio nu 029

Above, 100 panels produced for a fundraiser at Art of This, a small collective run art space in S. Minneapolis, co-founded by David Peterson back in 2006.

How do we solve the need for creative expression now? If we don’t need to make objects to survive physically, and the continuity of artisinal family traditions has been lost to colonialism and migration, then it makes sense that knowing what to produce could be a real psychological challenge. What if you don’t feel you have a means to be creative because you’ve never been taught as your fore bearers would have been? If we are cut off from traditional modes of making because of a lack of available resources, is our sense of community and self devalued?

We are driven to make meaning out of random events that conspire to become our lives. We may not even be aware that what’s eating at us has to do with some long lost sense of cosmic wonder. Can you extrapolate meaning from a tradition you’ve never been empowered to own? Is the desire to commune with something where cultural phenomena like the Twee thing for artisinally produced, small batch goods originates? We have to be careful not to regurgitate the past out of nostalgia, we need to interpret it again through a fresh lens, in order to bring new life into our stories now.

Cellular Memories; a series of paintings in-progress for the Phipps Center in Hudson, WI. 

This assumes, of course, that everyone has an internal drive to create somewhere in their being. If this is daunting, break the task down into bite-sized chunks of engaged making to start with. Allow the work to be realized by a thousand small actions instead of an one overwhelming one. Use the doing as a way to collect energy, and then share it, sending it into the world to do good work. Then what a triumph the finished thing becomes, transcending any one participant, imbued with a life and a meaning of it’s own.

Verum ipsum factum. – “the true is the made.”     – Giovanni Battista Vico

In 2010, exhibition at the Phipps Center, proved more than I could deliver on at the time, but instructional.


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