September 24, 2019

My Artists Creed

I once heard that there is no word for “art” in Bali because they simply make everything beautiful. Every Thing – every single bed, hidden doorway, ceramic flower pot, ubiquitous chamberpot – is somehow artistic, in its own way. I’m not sure if this is true, but it certainly could be my creed – Make everything beautiful. If I can’t paint it, I’ll put a sticker on it. If it is ugly, I’ll refurbish or get rid of it. If nothing else, I’ll put glitter on it. Oh yes, I will.
I can always tell when one of my clients is doing better, because they ask, “Has this always been here?” This could refer to the art-deco murals of trees in the front room, a lampshade carefully strung with lost earrings and broken pearls, the toilet in the guest bathroom that has been painted like sea kelp using enamel paints. No longer lost in their internal landscape of depression, anxiety and gloom, they take a moment to look around, perk up, observe their surroundings, become truly aware – and hopefully inspired, if not simply mindful. The random look of joy on their faces, a pleasant reminder for me that even though I am used to all this by now – it is a moment of wonder, a feeling of curiosity if not incredulity, a feeling of infinite possibility. My own mindful moment.

And the answer? Well, some twenty years ago, after going through a divorce and deciding to cancel cable TV, I found that I spent a lot of time worrying about my child or feeling frustrated by daily chores. Creating art, creating beauty, was a way to transform, to channel my energy into what I now call prayer – out of my suffering, grief, and depression, let something lovely be born. Khalil Gibran says, “Work is love made visible.” And as a result, let me be more present – with my child, my clients, my self.

And so every room is painted – I’m talking the resplendent four seasons became my hallway, gold and silver stars grace the ceilings, meticulous stencils of ripe red roses and palest lavender wisteria are a sharp contrast to the spongy backgrounds of blackberry bushes and underwater dreams. Embellished glass kitchen cabinets sing their songs with art-deco dragonflies, purring pussy willows, and golden outlines. Bored, I moved on from the big canvasses of white walls to the more intricate details. First, transformed common garden statues into marvelous radiant beings to celebrate my cronehood, then transcribed my horrible handwriting into cryptic runes onto tarot decks, and all along (yes, of course, this is Santa Cruz)- hosted a couple dozen new tattoos to inscribe art on my body, the ultimate illuminated manuscript.

I balk when people ask if I’m an artist (let alone a writer). I certainly am a dabbler, willing to try, to experiment. I perceive art as a lifestyle – much like being a Vegan, a Surfer, or my myth of the Balinese. While I don’t spend my time thinking about tofu, the temperature of the water, or whatever story someone s making up about me – I do try to create beauty, every day, in every way. As simple as a reworded email, as complex as the center of the Dolores Rose, who springs forth every January despite the chill to infuse my being with the scent of hope.

I struggle with that voice in my head says, “It’s not art if it’s not making money”. But it is beauty, and it is pleasing, and I know it makes this tiniest, tiniest, tiniest slice of this particular corner of the world an even better place. This is something I believe in, a practice, my particular artist's creed.

Blessed Be.