I keep seeing previews for the new season of Genius: Picasso and with every trailer, I can’t help but laugh at the truth I see. Now, perhaps you have seen this show and you think that Picasso is an absolute rat for what he put his wife through and for the string of broken women he left in his wake. As an individual, I don’t know that he was or wasn’t the kind of person to fill the souls of those whom he met rather than draining them or whether I would have enjoyed his company or not; as an artist, I am able to understand Picasso because there is one truth he embodied that is so perfectly artistic:
The immortalization of the muse.
Before you get the wrong idea, I’m not saying that the way Picasso used women as his muses was kind or appropriate. Not in the least; in fact, I rather think he was a cad. However, as an artist, I completely understand the inspiration others lend to the work, whether they want to or not, and the need to let that inspiration loose or suffer the agony of holding that inspiration back from the work. In some ways, being an artist is being just a wee bit manic: the feeling of being crazy when the art does not flow and the sanity and serenity that comes when it does.
Artists create pieces, images, and snapshots of moments in time, memory, or experience, real or imagined, that will remain long after they are gone, immortalizing the muse that brought the art forth. The muse may be contained in all of a piece of work or they may be little more than the pebble tossed into a calm pool of water that sends waves expanding ever outward until the ripples reach the edges of the water and finally die away as the work is completed. All or nothing more than a pebble! I remember being young and amusingly quixotic to the degree that on my “to do” list for life, being someone else’s muse was paramount among my goals.
Call me what you will, but I’m truly a romantic and the idea of inspiring others to create beauty in the world has always been an enchanting one for me.
Creating something beautiful that will survive after one is gone in a sense immortalizes both the artist and the muse, but most importantly it speaks truth to the souls of the audience. We can all look at the same painting or read the same words and the muse expressed therein will speak to each of us differently, reaching us in different ways, and causing us to think on and experience different emotions. That’s the beauty of art: that it will speak to us all but it will speak to us differently as the art filters through our own life’s story depending on our experiences.
In some ways, I feel that art is truly magical. Not in the sense that artists say some magic words, draw some magic circles, or wave a magic wand, but in that the art can reach so many and touch them so deeply and differently. Some artist’s magic comes with watercolor or acrylic paint, others with musical notes, some with clay or wood, some with words… and some, like me, with a multitude of media. The chiefest of mine is obviously words.
Words, words, words.
Ah… My one true pleasure… Words.
I love the words and the words love me. Everything in my experience inspires words. Everyone I meet is another thread added to my tapestry woven with words that tells the story of my life: some stay hidden save a single stitch or two where their thread is pulled forward, some are found pulled into the picture for a time before drifting away again to lie among the other unused threads of my weaving, and others come up into the work again and again. Those whose threads are continuously brought into my work come as either the bright and beautiful threads in my story, the gold and silver among the other pure, light reflecting shades of color, or as the dark and ugly threads that lurk in the shadows and darkness, offsetting the beautiful threads and showing them even more brightly as a result. Even though I am not shy about my art and the telling of honest stories, and even though I warn people that I’m a writer and an artist inspired by my everyday, there are always those who somehow seem surprised when they see something in the work that makes them think of themselves.
Is it really so surprising that the impact made on an artist’s life would be revealed in the art they create?
I’m ever amused by those who ask if they inspired something I wrote because the answer is probably always an affirmative one. How could I not be impacted by your presence in my world? When asked, I always say yes, but truthfully that doesn’t mean the influence was as great as one believes. They may have been the whole piece, or they may have just happened to be the pebble kicked into the pond accidentally setting ripples cascading over the surface of the water. The threads are there, and a stitch or two may come forward from the great pile of weft and warp threads in the back of my tapestry because everyone who has made an impact on my life in any way has been a stitch and has a thread. But that isn’t really why people seem to think it is always about them. It’s because the art is good.
Art is supposed to make you think of yourself.
It is supposed to make you self-reflect.
It is supposed to speak to your conscious soul about your darkness or your light.
It is supposed to draw from within you true emotions that break the dam that holds back the reservoir of your true self from the trickle you allow others to see, feel, and experience.
I’m always fascinated by the belief of some that their impact and inspiration could have been the only muse for the story the words painted. There’s an arrogance in that assumption, a self-righteousness, a self-importance… And there’s also a discomfort in it because the story isn’t always one that speaks of the person you want others to see or the person you want to believe you are. “Did I inspire that?” Yes, it’s about you.
The art is always about you.
Good art ~ whatever media, whether it is music, paint, textile, clay, or words ~ will always make you see yourself reflected back.
Just like a magic mirror that strips away the masks and lies.
If you don’t like the reflection you see when you see yourself in a work of art, the story the art tells, or the feelings that are brought up within you, than you ought to take a step back from your life to question yourself as to why.
Did you intend to have that impact and that influence?
Did you consider the consequences of your choices on those who were reached by them?
Did you think about the person whose life you touched with your darkness or your light, and what that touch would do to or for them?
Or did you only think about yourself?
What you see in any work of art is only ever really about what you see in yourself.
If what you see makes you uncomfortable, search your own soul to find out why.
And for the love of doughnuts, if you don’t like what you see in the art produced by the artists in your life, than don’t choose to associate with them unless you’re willing to look honestly at yourself because undoubtedly their art will bring more of the unpleasant truth you despise to the surface.
Art has such a profound impact because it speaks truth to us ~ sometimes beautiful truth, and sometimes the ugly, gritty, unpleasant truth we would otherwise prefer to leave unacknowledged and unclaimed like a package stuck in the dead letter office, never to be opened.
Personally, I prefer to discover the ugly truths about myself so I can change them rather than hiding behind a beautiful lie.
Have I reached that goal of being another artist’s muse, you wonder?