An artist, not only a “dreamer”

by Olivia Joy

Since about the age of six, I’ve been told “Oh, you’re so creative.” It would always start, as it does for children, with scribbling, escalate to coloring, we would then dream up our own personal rendition of what human life looked like, and then our imagination would come in to play and we would start to dream up our own organic forms and justify them with some ridiculous explanation that only makes sense to us. This art exploration process as a young child was something that would of course appear to be some “hobby-like” form, as most interests of children are dismissed immediately if they are not a product of the interests of those who surround them. But for child artists, this process — of creating — reaches to provide further satisfaction and sense of fulfillment, that as a young child, is rather hard to articulate, let alone people who are unwilling to even try to “get” it.

The stigma surrounding support of artists is difficult to explain, and I’m almost sure that it has to begin with this lack of support from day #1. In the home, all a child’s most prized work of art typically amounts to is maybe a month or two on the refrigerator, being held up, crooked, by some tacky magnet.But a child wouldn’t dare demand more. And the rest is history: they don’t understand because our voice is meek. It’s so very hard to force someone to want to support you when the push-back is so likely. And we’d normally be okay with push-back, but our art is something personal and brings us to a place of vulnerability, not something we want to parade around for the sake of gaining support.

It’s impossible, however, to explain where that lack of support from artists’ peers asthey grow older comes from, but there’s this thought that maybe, just maybe, it’s because they don’t live in our weird artist-brains, and in some way, that’s completely okay because we  won’t  all ever “get” each other. But at the same time, I come back to ask myself, is it okay? Because there’s a difference between the businessperson who doesn’t support the financial analyst and the businessperson doesn’t support the artist. It simply looks different — it doesn’t come from a place of difference in principle, it’s that whole entitlement thing that a lot of us — myself included find it difficult to talk about. Why, because we hate that guilt thing, but it’s important to acknowledge this natural default that society has created because it’s a really really unfortunate reality, and it may be nearly impossible to derive the true root of that separation.

See this is what I’m talking about:

Walking up to a legislator to discuss higher education issues just a month ago: Him: “Oh, what are you studying?” Me: “I am currently getting my undergraduate in Studio Art and Nonprofit Management.” And before my sentence even came to a close, there in-lies an immediate shift in his posture, a mere tilt of the head, almost as though he wanted to ask, “Then why are you here?” and a small squint of the eyes.  Part of me wishes that people like him would ask why I was there, so then I would have the opportunity to express my understanding of the need for students who are knowledgeable to advocate for resources and services that are crucial to their development at the institution in which they are enrolled in. Because we don’t have to be in political science or law and justice to be informed or to simply just care.

For some reason, this thought has been formed, or at least some days it seems, that artists do not or cannot exist in the academic world. As someone who wouldn’t be able to solve a simple math problem, or read a book and articulate its simple words: our world’s artists worth is being cheapened for reasons that have no basis of integrity. We don’t sit there and finger paint all the live long day, we don’t just sit there and talk about and marinade in our own existential thought circles, and believe it or not, we aren’t all stuck in this extremist, liberal world, looking for opportunities to belittle others’ ideas only to bring glory to our own agenda. See, we get labeled with this word a lot: “Dreamer.” Yeah, they may be right, we dream and we dream big. BUT, it’s a hard notion to express, but we are more than that. Our heads aren’t just stuck up in the clouds, we dream intentionally, with purpose and reason, and dream about things that most deem in the realm of the impossible, but to artists, what is that…what is impossible?

It goes — we go, a lot deeper than that… Our minds see depth and see richness, we crave more and more, but no one cares to ask why. Not that what’s on the surface won’t suffice, but think like this, and maybe you’ll get why: when we spend our lives creating pieces, productions, and art that have so much depth to them and mean something great, and the world gives nothing but the basics in return, we can’t help but crave that sense of depth.

Just a couple months back, I was having this conversation with my friend, Kevin. Kevin is someone who, passing by, you may think his ears would perk up at the thought of a conversation about the creative realm; however, I tend to deny my urge to overload everyone by sharing my art with them. Because sharing art, that doesn’t mean giving them a five second peek at your artwork and putting it away. It means taking them on your adventure that you already tell yourself that they don’t want to hear, even though sometimes…they do, and again, it’s a vulnerability thing. How I talked before about people not understanding our minds and that being the element that creates this stigma, that’s where this comes into play. As artists, we want to share our wack-job minds with you and we want you to be so intrigued by them that you can’t help but beg for more.

But anyways, back to my story about Kevin. So, in January, he was up in my office space at my University for an open house we were hosting, and as we were catching up on the latest and greatest in both of our lives, he started asking me about the pieces I was currently working on. One being a self portrait I had just completed, which let’s face it, I loathe even the thought of self portraits… Anyways, so I begin explaining the premise of this assignment and skirting around the basics of what choices I made, or what I liked and didn’t like about the finished  product, he then goes, “So, you keep saying design choice, give me an example of a design choice you made and tell me why it was a good one, and then tell me a design choice you wish you could have changed.” Now that sounds like a simple question, but it spoke volumes in comparison to the responses that my friends typically provide, and this entire conversation that had just happened brought me to a new place of realization. See, normally when I show someone a piece, they say something to the effect of “I don’t get it.” with no follow up. But I’ll tell ya, when Kevin gave me the opportunity to share the motivation of my  intentional design choices and expressed genuine interest in understanding the why, I maybe then, for the first time “got” it. Speaking generally, the separation between artists // art // and the rest of the populous // world is created because the appropriate opportunity to have these conversations rarely presents itself. Whose fault that lies in the hands of is of question, but one thing is for certain, we artists, we so so desperately want to teach you and want to show you what’s going on upstairs, but it’s hard to get there sometimes.

It’s been interesting  having conversations with my fellow artists in the past few months, hearing about the ways in which art brings them ultimate satisfaction and joy in ways of which other things will not and cannot. See, the way that art reaches us humans is deep deep down, into the trenches of our hearts and the corners of our brain that are merely inaccessible by so many means. I have friends with parents who hate their lifestyles and friends who don’t know how to outwardly express the chaos stirring inside of them: creating their art is the only, and I mean only way for them to be able to release that tension that so tightly binds their heart and so wildly confuses their mind. The way that my mind goes to a place rest and chaos when I am painting is explainable, and my greatest wish is that everyone can experience it.

A real artist? How could we even be confined to such a brief description? A real artist isn’t just a dreamer, not just someone who begs to find depth in things that simply have none. An artist isn’t someone who should be segregated from academia. A real artist is a creator, a person who seeks reason and purpose. An artist has potential and can bring ideas to life.

Artists shape the way that we see the world.