Monday, June 21, 2010

What Art Thou

I sense, myself, some trepidation in the air. You clap and laugh as wish, and that lightens the load of all these animals. They're extremely sensitive to ambiance, so be exuberant and that lightens the atmosphere...
~Doug Seus

I heard it about a month ago, that thing I'd been dreading. It's taken me this long to unclench and write about it. I've yet to speak about it. I knew I was going to hear it eventually, so I was semi-prepared for it. Still, to hear it uttered was a bit soul rattling. I was at a craft show, my cards arranged around the table, along with some other bits of crafty stuff. A woman came by, eyed my lot, gently fingered a couple cards without picking them up for closer inspection. I could tell she was looking, but not really looking. Then she had the great audacity, in a voice normally reserved for phrases such as, "Goodness, what is that horrible stench?!", to say, "Do you ever do any real art?"

In considering the possibility of this question coming up, I had an entire three minute speech prepared. Unfortunately, something happened on the way to the forum, and I couldn't remember a word of it. So, I simply leveled the audacious lout with a brilliant smile and a single bat of my baby blues, and said, "Why yes, I do." She did the equivalent of holding a lace hanky to her nose and uttered, "Hmmm," as she strolled away.

I'm not so ostentatious as to think my work is at the top of any chain. Some days, I'm not even sure it's part of the chain gang. But to me, and this is important, to me it feels like art. At the base of everything creative that we do is how it feels to us. I love making pies, because to me, it's making something magnificent out of a few simple ingredients. That's art. The way my Grandmother used to iron was art - her dance. The way Steve twists a wrench and swings a hammer and knows which wires and tubes go where is art.

What makes such a question particularly painful for me is that, for the longest time (until about a year ago, in fact), I didn't consider myself an artist. I would concede that I was creative, but an Artist? No. That moniker was reserved for the greats, for the people with real vision and flair. I shut down a whole part of my creative self because I convinced myself that I was Not An Artist. When we tell ourselves we are not something, we are telling ourselves that we are incapable and not worthy of wasting any time trying. Pish posh.

Do I ever do any real art? I do. I do now. What's more, I realize, in looking back at pictures of projects I've done over the years, that I always have. I was an artist the day I was born. But I left that precious gift sitting under the tree, unopened, year after year, feeling that I was unworthy of it. Then I went through a period of telling myself, "Quit saying no." The problem is, I didn't further instruct myself. It should have been, "Quit saying no and start saying yes."

What is art? Art is anything we do that brings a sense of beautiful, fanciful, whimsical or wonderful to this hackneyed world.

So. This too, then, is art.

~Doug Seus with Bart the Bear


  1. i didn't call myself an artist until about a year ago, too. And i had the same realization, that i've always been an artist. Some people make a distinction between craft and fine art, but i blur the lines all the time, and i think any creative activity can be art, from cooking a delicious meal for my family to planting a garden. And really, whether anyone else considers what i do art or not, i really don't care - i just want to make stuff.

  2. This is why we are friends, Jess. You are an artist... I have your work to prove it.


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