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I remember when I first realized that it was dangerous to be an artist.
I had just handed in my first real, honest essay to my sixth grade teacher. It was about my adoption and my sister’s adoption and how it felt to live in a family of loving strangers. That topic, mixed with my careening hormones, allowed me just enough space to step into my untapped artistic rebellion. For the first time, I told the truth. I didn’t cloak it in softness and mask it in alrightness; I spoke my pain on the page.
For a full week, I waited for it to be returned to me. I envisioned big stars and comments like, “Wow,” “This is the best paper I’ve ever read,” “Can I submit this to be published?” I felt so exposed, and at the same time, so alive. In class, I kept waiting for my teacher’s eyes to meet mine and show me any kind of silent recognition.
Finally, eight days later, our papers were returned to us.
I flipped through noticing a few red lines and marks but not too many.
When I reached the last page, it read: C-
“Katherine, for the third time, please follow the guidelines and use double space, not 2.5 space.”
I’ll never forget how my body felt in that moment. Like a thousand trees falling inside of me, never making a sound.
Have you had your own moments of inner forest devastation?
What happens in your body when I call you Artist?
Do you expand? Do you recoil? Perhaps a bit of both?
Whatever the reaction, I’d like to share a perspective that has allowed me to birth a new, creative spirit and receive the name Artist with power, pride, and deep expansion.
In our world, artistry is measured by production. If we make the things and show the things and people see the things and buy the things, we’re allowed to call ourselves an artist.
However, production is only a fraction of the creative spirit body.
Art is not created when we put pen to page or brush to canvas; it’s created when we see something and feel something and make meaning of something all at once. The art is the alchemy that happens inside of us. We are the container, therefore we are the art.
Our relationship with and understanding of the world around us is what makes us an artist. It is what generates every single thing that we create from nothing: the dinner we prepare, the energy we bring to a conversation, the way we take in a sunrise, the ideas we have while working, the way our body moves through space.
Our artistic alchemizing is what has the power to make our life so potent, so unique, so nuanced. Every person who experiences us is taking a walk through our gallery and projecting their own artistic alchemy onto it.
We are the living embodiment of the artistry that happens within. We get to choose, long before outward expression, the shape that we want our art to take. We’re making art right now, while reading this.
Can you feel it filtering through your blossoms and boundaries and bones?
How might you walk differently today if you dropped your protections and let me call you Artist?