Since I was a little girl, I loved art. Art evoked emotions I couldn’t describe and stimulated thoughts that I couldn’t articulate. My mom took me to the art museum often and even put me in art classes. I was no artist (so I thought). I couldn’t draw or paint or sculpt. Nothing I created looked how it was supposed to or how the teacher demonstrated. So, after a few classes I requested not to go back. I didn’t believe I could be artist. No one told me about abstract art. Or that art is an expression and if you have something to express, using any medium it is art.
Despite the fact I thought I couldn’t participate in art as a creator of art, I was still a huge admirer. From classics like Edgar Degas ballerinas, to elaborate glass art of Dale Chihuly, to Jacob Lawrence’s stories of my ancestors, to the huge colorful flowers of Georgia O’Keeffe, to the street art of Jean-Michel Basquiat, and the contemporary works of Greg Ligon. I wanted art to surround me and be around me because I saw how it made me feel.
Through the years I missed the memo that art is your own expression. That if you have something to express you most certainly can participate in art. And however you choose to express it; it is art.
So here we are in 2020. I have moved from the space of just an admirer of art to an artist that creates her own art. How I came into this space is a dubious transition. In 2019, I was doing some research on visual literacy and how it applies to children’s books (the idea that you can’t be what you can’t see – the omission of people of color in picture books and what that says to children). Anyway, I remembered I had a book from grad school called How Pictures Work by Molly Bang. I found it. Read it. Immediately, I felt this compulsion to create art.
How Pictures Work is a book that in a very simplistic but in a sophisticated way, explains how just three shapes and three colors can not only tell a clear story but can evoke, ignite, and command emotions on the viewer. This book gave me the context and language I didn’t have as a child. But, explained why art spoke to me so deeply. So that evening, I opened my Adobe Illustrator and began creating digital art with just two or three shapes and two or three colors. I couldn’t stop. I’d made one after another. I mulled over the right hue, the right size, the right shape. The right hues, size, and shapes came together and created abstract art that told stories of my pain. It was therapy.
I have clinical depression. I have had it for about six years now. I take medication and I go to therapy every week. I’ve discussed a lot in therapy. I’ve overcome a lot. I’ve learned a lot. The meds and therapy is very helpful and instrumental in coming out of my depression and discovering my true self. But I found that creating this art was therapy too. The process of creating was silent. It allowed me to be alone with my thoughts. It allowed me to relive and address my trauma and pain head on. It allowed me to free the charges and triggers of my pain. It allowed me to put my pain in my own words. It f
reed me. I felt a freedom that I’ve never felt before. It was magic. It had been a long time since I was happy about something I created; since I admired something I did.
Seth Godin describes art as, “a personal gift that changes the recipient. The medium doesn't matter. The intent does. “Art is a personal act of courage, something one human does that creates change in another.” This art is my personal act of courage. What is even more courageous for me is that I truly don’t care if people like it or see it as art. I love it. It is beautiful to me. It frees me. I don't claim the space as a true artist in its purest form but, I am an abstract artist. I am a storyteller artist. I am a dialogue starter artist.
I am a therapeutic artist. I am a free yo’ self-artist. And I now have quite the personal collection of art work that maybe I will share with the world one day.