Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Art is what brings us together

I'm currently reading the book Eat Pray Love, an autobiographical story about a woman writer who travels to Italy, India, and Indonesia in search of herself/god/inner peace/really good gelato.  I'm at the India part now, and the author is explaining that meditation is a way of getting past our own egos (which tell us we're different, separate and special) and realizing that (in addition to being different, separate and special) we're all part of each other and part of the universe.  I hope I described that properly...I'm too lazy to look up the actual quote.

I also own the Stephen King autobiography/how-to book called On Writing, which describes writing as telepathy: you're essentially sending thoughts to the reader across space and even time (Shakespeare transmitted his thoughts centuries ago and we can still pick them up) without speaking a word out loud.  I love and agree with this theory, and further posit that art and music do the same thing.

I've heard people say that the arts are as important to society as math or science or history, and although I wanted to believe this statement (for obvious reasons), I never really understood it.  But I get it now.  The arts are important because, like telepathy, they help people communicate; and, like meditation, they help elevate humans and let us sense that we're part of something bigger.

I experienced a pure transcendental moment at a Regina Spektor concert a few years ago (though at the time I didn't think of it as meditation or telepathy).  Regina played Samson, a bittersweet breakuppy song, and it was as though the audience's energy amplified the sadness of the song.  I burst into tears, and I think a lot of other people did, too, and for those few minutes the barriers between us (our egos?) dissolved and we were all just floating together inside the song.  Letting Regina's thought transmissions buoy us up, flow around us, sweep through us.

But my most amazing spiritual experience ever was with my own art.

I often use painting as a form of therapy - I vomit all my emotion out on the canvas without censoring or editing myself.  This usually results in pictures that feel to me like melodramatic baby tantrums:

Call the waaaaaaaahmbulance!
I honestly figured people would look at this stuff and be disgusted by how maudlin I am, how utterly whiny and emo and pathetic.

I haz a sad. :(
But instead...people relate to it.  They see some particular painting of mine and it knocks the breath out of them and they go "Oh my god I so totally get this!"  Our experiences may be different - maybe something I painted out of breakup sadness reminds you of a recent death-in-the-family sadness - but the feelings are the same.

The positive reaction to my work made me realize three things: 1) I'm not the only one whose inner child is a petulant little drama queen - I've watched people look into my most emo paintings and see themselves as surely as if they were looking in a mirror.  2) When people love and understand my work, it makes me feel less alone.  Imagine telling someone your most horrible private secret embarrassing feelings and having them go "So what's the big deal?  I feel like that all the time" - that's what it's like.  3) Holy crap, my paintings can dissolve people's egos and make them one with the universe!  I must be pretty good!

And that's about the time I decided to do the Etsy thing.  Before that, I was painting this stuff purely to put my demons into the canvas where they couldn't bite and scratch at my insides anymore.

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