This show process leaves me with so much to sit with. Some days I leave rehearsals with words tumbling from my mind faster than my high school graded typing speed, and some days I feel like I need to really sit back and reflect within myself what the (my) artistic process is about. Art is exhausting, art is trying, art leaves you wondering why you sacrifice to make these fleeting thoughts into physical manifestations. But art is also fulfilling: every joyous laugh from a cast member, every excited meeting with the production team. This is our family for these moments; our support system, our allies, our mentors, and to me, that is what art is truly about: unity.
Together, we see this story that deserves a voice and a home within us, and the sacrifice is that we offer ourselves to this story, to this history, and to this legacy. But then, when I reflect further, I realize the word sacrifice is invalidating and destructive to what we are actually giving to build. Instead of a sacrifice, we are entrusting a piece of ourselves within this story. Entrusting is to find value, find joy, find the art worth holding onto, and the stories worth telling. I truly can only speak from my own experience, and in my experience, my artistic process goes a little something like this: never lose your willingness to trust.
While it sounds sweeping, vague and probably sounds naive, I have gotten to the point in my life where I have learned to stop apologizing for the things that bring me comfort, delight, and creative freedom. Never losing my willingness to trust includes but is not limited to the following:
- Trusting that who I am, with whatever experiences I have in this fleeting moment are going to serve me to do the best I can do. My mom always tells me that I may not be the best ever (In fact it’s impossible to be the best ever because good and bad are judgements, and highly subjective, especially in art, so I can never truly ever be the best or the worst) but that as long as I am fully present with whatever I am attempting, and treating and treated with respect, that I have done my best.
- Trusting that when I treat others with respect, they will reciprocate, and if they do not, that I will maintain respect for their existence (but I have been informed about who they are and that they will not be the best asset to my life, or my art, and I, to theirs).
- Trusting that if I love, I am always fully myself.
- Trusting that nothing I do will ever be perfect, and trusting that the imperfections will guide me towards discoveries.
The funny thing about my artistic process, and the thing that causes me to reflect is that, while I wish I followed this every moment, and entrusted fully always, I can’t always be the best version of myself. Art is my passion, art makes my world infinitely vibrant and exciting, but I can’t always offer everything to art that art offers to me, and that is where I believe I (and probably a few other folx too) fall into a trap. The idea that art is no longer trusting, but instead falls into sacrifice, into the manacles of suffering. The idealized, romanticized and often fetishized archetype of the “tortured artist,” the toxic, often self imposed ideology that if we lose sleep, if we push ourselves to the extremes we will somehow produce something extremely beautiful that reflects these pains.
There is this saying of “well Van Gogh suffered and look at his beautiful, whimsical creations.” This false perception fosters a false sense of creative energy. Van Gogh did battle with his mental illness, but his yellow sunflower period? Caused from a medication for epilepsy he took that made color yellow to be perceived in added brilliance. In an act of self care Van Gogh created some of his brightest, warmest work. And that is where I want to work towards, and want every artist to work towards: to create art because we feel whole, and not because we are starving our vessels for the fire. Which is not to discredit the ups and downs of a human life, because it is life, but rather, to seek the joy of being alive, to serve others with this joy, and to paint bright yellow sunflowers on the insides of our souls because we’ve watered the flowers inside of us rather then tried to smother them out.