Making Meaning

part one

Until recently, I was part of an arts education team developing a concept of artistic literacy. In a nutshell, this methodology pairs creator and audience to create meaning through the tools each brings to the table upon experiencing a work of art.

Creating meaning is now top of mind as I embark on my own artistic and aesthetic trajectory. Even with close up and personal access to artists, I’ve always been on the audience side of the equation in the performing arts. Now I am attempting to bring years of experience to the other side as a visual artist. A task, apart from the aesthetic and technical challenge, is to give aesthetic works a story that contribute to relevant social discourse. What do I do? What can I do? How can I make positive change? I admit that this isn’t easy.

This past year has been a constant, churning stew of chaos, destruction, sadness, political malfeasance, active racism, violence, stupidity, environmental destruction and existential threats. My heart hurts for those suffering displacement, violence, illness, uncertainty, loss, chaos, and grief. Personally, it has been a year of huge change and growth, for which I must acknowledge my fortune of being able to retreat into the quiet of home and a supportive social “bubble.”

My challenge now is to make work that avoids being “trite.” To use my tools to respond to the world; to make intentional choices to be empathetic, comforting, and relatable or provocative; and whether and how to use this platform as a call to action. I’m pondering these possibilities in order to best reconcile my work with the greater whole in art that speaks to others in a way that they might find meaning.

I made an attempt this fall in a series of images I created in response to California wildfires. With visual reference to the flames, I created tightly constructed environments to take control over the uncontrollable, to take comfort in the hope for rejuvenation. Obviously, there is so much more to do.

This is the journey for the new year, as creative people help reinvent and adjust the new reality. We are tasked with reimagining, transcending the easy answers, and coming up with new ways of navigating the world.

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