Snow Portrait & Being An Artist

This is what happens when your child is an artist too. You find things like this in your freezer (in addition to messes left behind from the last endeavor involving chocolate). It’s a “portrait” created after our last snowstorm. (I’m glad she’s just a child and her icy portraiture impulses haven’t manifested to the extreme of Marc Quinn, who periodically casts a self-portrait out of his own blood, then freezes it for posterity and display, fetching hundreds of thousands from collectors.)

My recently 12-year-old daughter is an artist too, and I’ve known this since she was very young. While I would never limit or pigeon-hole her career options, I can say with 100% certainty that she will not be an accountant, lawyer, scientist, banker, politician or doctor. She’s an artist. I know this not because she spends all of her free time drawing, listening to books on tape, singing, and fashioning odd an mesmerizing assemblages from household detritus, but because of the way she sees the world: paying attention to obscure detail, finding humor in what’s wrong, spending hours poring over her baby names book looking for the latest characters in her short stories. Because she needs to spend hours alone in her room “fermenting in my own creativity,” as she says. Like me, she’s an artist. A misfit. A fringe-dweller. I’m happy that I can teach her about creativity and talent and the power of saying something without words.

When I was young, I didn’t have other artists to guide me along. I just thought I was a freak because I was bored with traditional interests like soccer and reading and dance team, and instead was fascinated with more disturbing wonders such as how you could make a dead chicken leg “close” by using pliers to pull the tendons. (Our 4-H membership strongly “encouraged” witnessing the killing of various farm animals so we would know where our food comes from. Not a bad idea. I was so intrigued by the movable foot that I asked to take it home.) Why my mother allowed me to keep a dead rooster foot on my top shelf for more than a year, I’ll never know. But it could have been an interesting box assemblage, a la Joseph Cornell, if only I’d known….

When I was in grade school, I so hated to read that I decided it would be more efficient to simply to invent stories, titles, authors, and write my “book reports” on that. Of course, this was before the internet and I suspected that my teacher couldn’t possibly go to the library and look up every title from every student to check our books. And it worked.

So I know what it is to be an artist, to choose a passion instead of a profession, to be a member of the creative class and struggle with statements like “starving artist,” and “what’s your real job?” and “you’ll never make any money with that.” While well-intended (if uninformed), such comments miss the point: we artists are born as artists and will continue to create regardless of the production-consumption model of our culture. We make art because we’re artists. Thank you for supporting us when you buy our work, see our plays, read our books, and watch our films.

From time to time I will post images of my daughter’s work so she, too, will be encouraged to continue on her path…

Talk to me! I spend too much time alone in the studio.

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