I spent the Day of the Dead with one of my favorite clients. I traveled to her city for an art event with more than a hundred regional artists opening up their studios to this tour co-ordinated by their arts council. We started down in a yet to be reclaimed "historic" district of this fine old Southern city. Artists brave the risks inherent to the location because studio space in these old buildings is cheaper. Some are large enough to be artist co-ops with a dozen or more artists sharing the building, each with their own little creative kingdom within. At the start of the day, I found the buildings more interesting than the art, so the tour, for me, was not about personal response.
Art is a messy business and my first impressions were not of the art but of the efforts many had put forth to make these work spaces a bit more presentable to the public. Again, I was focused on the space, rather that the contents of the spaces. Then, at the first painting studio we visited , I sniffed the air like a Bassett Hound...and was reminded of my student days in a fine Arts college where the pungent smells of creating art were dominant. Those scents ( aroma therapy?) triggered my brain away from my purpose of finding art for my client, away from thinking about the buildings, away from my current self of business and back to the self who pursued a path because of love of art.
Over the course of the day we found some great, good, mediocre, poor and pseudo art of all disciplines and mediums. I engaged in rewarding conversations with artists and overhead disturbing conversations wherin artists were forced to acknowledge, if not accept, the judgements of others. I found, as the day progressed I was just amazed by the incredible courage of artists. Imagine how difficult it must me to have THE PUBLIC! come into your heart, mind, soul and offer up their opinions of their findings! I quake at the thought!
There was no question hearts, minds, souls...the very core of these creative beings were on display.
One painting was of a fractured woman with her bits and pieces connected via random scripted words which ,when read in the correct order, told a heart wrenching tale of love betrayed. The artist of this work was not present, she had hung out her angst for viewing but declined to stand and face the public. How could she do this? My prayer for her is that in so doing she has lessened her grief.
In yet another gallery in a shabby back corner we encountered huge paintings of light and joy like I have never seen! I looked around at the studio itself with it's grimed windows of yesteryear and wondered HOW can someone paint light so beautifully when light is so spare here? The answer is of course the light source resides in the artist's soul. Bless him! Having met his proudly smiling wife and his tiny infant son, I think this artist has much to celebrate and much to share!
When I entered a studio where the official greeter was an aged yellow lab my expectations rose, and I was not disappointed. Here a person of amazing vision uses...bailing wire?...to create life sized sculptures of animals, birds, plants.
The centerpiece in the gallery was of a gracefully jumping horse, her expression eager, her form perfect , her mane and tail breezing from her gallant speed, her spread wings giving her the extra lift needed for the journey ahead. I fought hard to keep my legs beneath me and used every muscle possible to keep my face from squeezing into a fist of agony. My visceral response to this art was so huge, so sudden, so overwhelming I was a bit disoriented until the sweet, wise, gentle yellow lab came to help me though the moment. Once I was ...recovered?... I verbalized my admiration to the artist who said her work was much improved once she gave up trying to "make it" as an artist and began to create "what nurtured her".
The day, for me, was a present. A shining gift beyond measure. On this Day of the Dead, something important was awakened in me and so defied death.
I am awed by the personal bravery of artists. I marvel at the generosity of spirit of these creators of response. I am not sure it will remain true for all my years, but for this year, Novemer 1st will be remembered as El Dia De Los Artistas!