Thursday, September 28, 2017
I'm writing this in a coffee shop nearby school. Folksy music is blending with the murmur of voices in the background. Beans roasting make the air feel caffeinated. Every once in awhile, I will see a familiar face walk in and say hello. Right now, the world feels right. Ordered. I feel present and loving it.
Life hasn't always been that way. Most of my awkward and crazy adolescent years have been spent hating some part of my life. I've hated the way people treat each other, the things people believe about themselves, and the hopelessness found at the end of all humanity's efforts to get things to work. I've struggled to unveil the pattern, order, meaning of it all. I've been stuck in an ever-looping existential crisis. Adolescence for me was waking up from a dream and realizing the dream was better than what I woke up to. Life was all wrong for me. It was heavy, disturbing, and hopeless.
This year has been characterized by kicking down the door and entering adulthood. My attitude toward life has changed. Part of maturing is realizing that I am meant to do something with the few years I walk the earth. It's liberating to see the things I've learned, skills I have, and passions zooming around inside of me position me to help others have hope too. That is real beauty.
I've been working on a bug collection for my ecology class, pictured above. Bugs are creatures I've often overlooked. This class has taught me to see the small things. When walking through the gardens at school, I'm impressed about the orange flowers drawing the butterflies. I think about how cicadas project their noises onto other bushes to mask their location. I also ponder the agility of the dragonflies that make them so hard to catch with my little net. There is beauty in all things if we care to look. To overlook the small things is to miss something much more monumental. Everything has a place, an order, and that order is good.
Saturday, August 26, 2017
I spend most of my time on the shores of tables, exploring the depths of human intelligence and trying to glean as much as I can from what I find. My days as a student have resumed. After a summer of quiet contemplation on the Swedish countryside, I am ready to face the frights of the semester with a level head. A little, but important, thing I learned this summer is about timing. In the west, we are so concerned with scheduling everything in our days. In the east, time is more of a fluid concept, and things eventually fall together in some kind of natural order. Many times, I scold myself for being too slow or thinking too deeply about something. Fast or slow, which is more true to the natural order of things? The way I, personally, should live? As a scientist, punctuality is an asset. As an artist, I try to provide space for my emotions. These two ways of thinking rule these very different areas of study, and I see the clear divide while I come from my art history class to ecology class.
Time is linear, but humans are not. People are like ghosts. They live long after they are dead - if only in someone's memory. My memories are not linear. My current experience steers the organization of my memories. That is probably why having a long lunch with an old friend makes all the years of silence melt away like ice on a warm day. Time is not linear in our heads. It's hard for me to conform to the scheduling nonsense while I acknowledge its usefulness. At least in the west, I think artists are the best at living in accordance to their nature. Being an artist is not a glamorous path. Being an artist takes making a real decision, because eating is a must. I don't know if I can call myself an artist, but I do make art. Other priorities such as studying, projects, and traveling get in the way of artmaking, but once I come back to it I feel like time has no meaning. I am just floating along on a thought cloud.
Even if life is crazy. Even if I can't follow through with all my goals and be the person I want to be. Even if the road ahead is shrouded in mystery, I will continue to allow myself to think and feel. Art is a part of that. Everything happening in a linear fashion isn't important. Even if I leave my blog for about eight months, I am proud to accomplish the act of coming back.
Monday, January 2, 2017
My house has a lot of chairs. They probably outnumber people present--even during parties. My family has inherited collections of early twentieth century furniture, so the theme of my interior is coincidentally a postmodern blend of past and present.
But chairs are useful things! Not only do they seat people, but are excellent for building forts and casting laundry upon. Some are decorative. Some are comfortable. The all purpose nature and individual character of chairs makes me think of people. Discovering yourself is just the step before committing to an occupation, role, etc. It is a crucial step.
Before college, I tended to not care what people thought about me and my career goal of becoming a physician. I welcomed the challenge of it. Hard work was not new to me. But somewhere between high school graduation and now, I started caring more about what people thought. The onset was gradual and seemingly well intentioned by me, but it replaced my hope with doubt. I listened to people tell me what kind of chair I was. That I was a decorative living room chair only useful for being sat in. That may be what other people see, but their point of view is arbitrary if I am certain of what kind of chair I am. I'm stepping away from all comments about my degree and embracing what I know is true. I am a transportable camping chair, able to withstand the rain and dreary days. I'm in it for the long haul. In the end, I will achieve what I set out to do.
Friday, December 30, 2016
Everything left handed is harder! And I thought my control was pretty decent, but apparently not top notch. The sketch above was done only with my wobbly left hand. It may look like grade school art, but the process was painstaking. I knew the entire time where to put my lines, but I felt powerless. Making straight lines, such as the divider on my window, was terribly slow, like spelling a word in reverse. Even slowly, the the movement of the pulse in my hand can be seen in the squiggles. Often, I have to remind myself that the goal in all things is not perfection. My hand is slowly releasing its grip around that ideal. In the beautiful words of Paul Kalanithi, "You can't ever reach perfection. But you can believe in an asymptote toward which you are ceaselessly striving."
Thursday, December 29, 2016
Humans. They are amazing. To think that within every person lies a torrent of facts, memories and feelings just waiting to gush out into an open, hungry world. But to expect someone to communicate things that deeply matter to them calls for a great amount of vulnerability.
Recently, I've been reading When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, a fantastic work written by a man awaiting death. Before departing to the next life, Kalanithi explores what it means to be alive and do stuff. Life is so vast in its scope that totality of humanity's combined experiences cannot shine light on the whole truth. The author was intensely honest concerning his search for existential answers in literature and neuroscience. Personally, having studied art and the sciences, I find all sizes of islands of truth in the areas of study. Kalanithi described it as every area of study/profession having a unique language which to interpret the world. So in doing things, life has meaning. Even on the threshold of death, Kalanithi was not idle and still strove to do what was valuable to him.
It has always been important for me to believe that life has meaning. That my life has meaning. Without it, I might as well not be here. But through the discipline of science, I see that even on microscopic level, there is order. Through the discipline of art, I see that encapsulated beauty can have ability to stir minds. Being simply a product of reproduction, it would be far fetched to say that I am self-made. It would be even more far fetched to say that I create meaning for the things I discover around me. It is then doubtful that any existential meaning can be found within ourselves; it would have to be intrinsically there. I am hopeful that truth and meaning exist, because it simply makes the most sense and is the less depressing point of view.
Wednesday, December 28, 2016
The course of the year has nearly run to completion!! 2016, where art thou? As I sit here pondering it, I hear the quiet hum of my essential oil diffuser and smell the sweet scent of the present. Time is such a fluid thing, made solid only by our memories, words, and pictures of time past. None of my momentos can do any particular memory justice, but at least they are enough to recall thoughts and prove it to have happened. That is the charm of sketching from life.
For Christmas, I got a little Moleskine sketchbook. It has this aura of class and functionality. The cover is really soft (you can basically pet it) and the paper doesn't produce holes when erased on. All this said, I think it would be a fun challenge to do a sketch per day! Starting today and ending January seventh, ten days from now.
The little scene above was completed close to an hour ago. I'm slightly sick, hence the tissues. Since this is Christmas break after all, I've been sleeping a ton and reading just as much. Even with late mornings, days seem nicely long. I can't say that I'm ever bored. My mind is always busy planning something.
Thursday, December 15, 2016
Currently, I write this in my little Christmas den pictured above. The air is sweet, literally, with the sugar and flour of my day long endeavor of baking. My body is tired from not sitting down since getting up this morning. I'm also a little bit distracted by Netflix while writing this. All is well.
So I'm back on the blog. I've spent a year avoiding artmaking, felt remorse about it, and took on a drawing class last semester. My professor was a master of critique and helped me hone my drawing skills a little more. The works above (minus the photograph) are samples of my work this fall 2016 semester. Most of them are unfinished. Some of them are renderings of my university. Others are of my friends. Some pieces are obviously better than others.
Above the technical, my professor helped me think like an artist again. To see life in hue, form and shade. But beyond the seeming shallowness of art, there is depth, and it is due to the nature of lines to convey meaning. I think that my year without art was largely a year without voice. When it comes down to it, there is nothing glamourous about art making. It's actually work, like everything else in life. Satisfying as it is, it isn't easy. There are lots of abstract problems to solve. More than once have I been humbled in the face of "I don't know." My professor posed a resounding question which has verbalized my turmoil in regards to art and life.
"Why do you spend your lifeblood doing art?"
The question is valid. Art is hard. The answer is not so clear cut. Maybe it is simply that I'm hooked, and I cannot live without it. Artmaking is beautiful and can be honest. It is a voice without words that communicate across barriers in society and culture. But it doesn't speak to everyone -- only to those with an open mind. It that way, it is a secret code reserved for a few. Those few understand pain and joy, for they have felt it too. Different medias of art do it in different ways. Videos can cause an overwhelming wave of emotion immediately, books can explore all the aspects of that emotion, while drawings, sculptures and paintings memorialize that emotion. Making art, just like doing scientific experiments, is a way to make sense of and cope with being alive. This has been an extremely hard semester for me on a lot of fronts. Taking drawing was one good decision that helped me tough it out.
Next semester will be filled with biological, chemical, and behavioral science classes. What form my artmaking will take, I have yet to find out.