Does artistry always lead to anguish as is custom in much of our Society? I can't begin to tell you how much I appreciate this brief talk by Elizabeth Gilbert. In February, I was back in the saddle showing up for my job as she puts it. Everyday I woke early, did my household chores and then clocked in to work on either a design or fine art project. At first it was exhilarating. I had survived. I was BACK! You see when you've had a stroke and your body is left paralyzed, you can't talk, you can barely read, your whole existence seem to disappear at least the world as you knew it, but unfortunately you are left with enough memories of life before the stroke to tease and taunt you. Well, I was back, but only at half level. I was tired all the time, living on coffee and depressed as all get out. Could I chase my genie, that allusive fairy who kept teasing me with flights of creativity. Or was it all over? Had my life stopped in February 2014. Well, I want it known for the record, that it hasn't stopped. I am still showing up every day to do my job as an artist.
They say in physical therapy that you need to practice daily in order to retrain the neurons to get movement back. I hadn't been paralyzed, but my left arm is still very weak making typing a chore. Anyway, so that is what I did. I wanted to knit and crochet again. So everyday, I woke up and I did my work. A friend would cast on for me and then I would begin the journey of knitting. It was slow going and tedious at first. But I practiced and eventually those neurons reconnected and I could knit with ease and good tension. The same happened for my abilities to crochet and embroider. I think that genie is merely a coach requiring you to show up at practice everyday come rain or sunshine and just do it! My first artwork after my stroke was The Social Networks and Stroke Recovery Art project. It was a collaboration with my neurologist and based on his research. It featured dozens of complicated crocheted mandalas. As the exhibition opening neared, I was freaking out. Not only did I have work to complete on it, but I felt the whole weight of the project on my shoulders. I first saw this video around that time and in response I made a paper door for my genie fairy. I taped it next to my art. I wanted her to have easy access to helping me. Could I physically pull off making the work was the first thing that terrified me, the other was feeling a responsibility for all other stroke patients and wanting to adequately represent their voices.
I look back at that time now and just shake my head at my silliness. So I think I need to make myself a wooden fairy door to place in my current studio as a reminder to not put so much pressure on myself. That level of stress is physically unbearable now and triggers a nasty chain of biological reactions. For most of March I walked around numb and scared witless as I tried to figure out the rest of my life until one day the genie appeared telling me that since the stroke caused a portion of my brain to die, I now have all this new space to cram in new learning. Think of how you clean out your closet only to fill it up with even more cool stuff. The thought was actually reassuring. Of course, I am not 16 preparing to launch myself into the world with full naivety. So, I am retreading by going over older ideas and seeing how relevant they are to me now while researching new ideas and techniques.
I think we put so much pressure on young people that they are to graduate from high school, go to college, graduate and get THE job. The same is for young artists, make your art, pay your dues and you too will be a success instead of teaching them that just showing up day after day to do your job is success and provides enjoyment in of itself.
What do you think? Do you agree that practice is the heart of the enjoyment or is it the thing once completed?