The Restoration

hawaii-shore

There once was a goddess made of fire. She towered high, enormous in her rage.

Her eyes burned in endless flames and she hurled balls of death and destruction to anyone who came near.

Anyone who threatened her.

Any contact with water would send her screaming as her fingers turned to smoke, her skin to ash. She guarded her black mountain range, ready to attack, just on the edge of the water.

The Fire regenerated her wounds, and without it she was pure darkness.

On her chest, a single black spiral, ending with a hole, a single space where something was missing.

Something she had forgotten.

So her Fire burned on, raging day in and day out, her eyes and mouth gaping holes, blazing yellow, hot, and endless.

Until one day, a young girl appeared who held the key to what was missing. In her small human hands, she held a tiny green stone, with a spiral on it.

And she reminded the goddess of who she was, and placed the stone back where it belonged, in the middle of the spiral, in the hole that had been forgotten.

Her heart.

Within moments the Goddess was restored, erupting in living life, flowers, creation, and glowing green. Her Fire went out, her body filled with lush tropical growth, and a smile returned.  She was restored to who she truly was.  A creative being.

 

This past week I sat with a smile wide, watching Disney’s newest animated feature, Moana. Written by the same team who brought us The Little Mermaid, and with music by Hamilton’s Lin Manuel, the movie was a throw back, traditional in form.

And of course, it was a musical, so I was in heaven.

Moana, the heroine, sang soaring notes, as she sailed the sea. And she sailed with one mission:

To restore the heart, and lift darkness from the land so her island would grow again.

And not only grow, but her people would remember who they truly are. To embrace their ancestry, and return to exploring.

But in order to restore, there had to be a moment before.

Remembrance.

 

95% of second graders say they are Creative.

50% of 5th Graders say they are Creative.

By high school, only 5% of the students say they are Creative.

What happens in that stage from the 7 year old mind to the teenage years?  How do we go from hands clutching colorful crayons to cutting off 90%?

I remember filling my pages in Creative Writing class in third grade, my pencil racing across the lined paper.  I loved writing with all my heart.  As I grew up, I got the very strong message that there was no career or money in writing, and my writing became more and more private.  I would write poems for friends and loved ones as gifts, but my energy started to shift to my performance.

My journal entries became less and less frequent, my poetry only emerging for the holidays.

I forgot.

And a fire was building in me…one fueled by frustration, exhaustion, rejection, and comparison.  I wasn’t where I wanted to be in my Performance Career and life.  And I began to lash out, blame others, and believe I wasn’t worthy. 

I began to believe I deserved to suffer, and I drew into isolation, too scared to share with anyone how much I was hurting.

And then my heart broke in a million pieces, as my life shattered.  And in one giant flame, I burned to the ground.

And then something extraordinary happened……

I remembered.

 

It was when I began to write again that my Career took off.  It was when I began to write again, I found my voice.  It was when I began to write again, I discovered my deeper purpose, and stepped into the Creative I really wanted to be, launching my own company and empowering artists across the globe to success and acclaim.

In this creation, I wasn’t bound by the roller coaster of rejection and elation, feast and famine.

I was ready to explore again, and grow.

I was restored to the third grader who knew all along where her heart was at, and sang it loud and clear for all to hear, like Moana on the sea, with the stone in her hand.

 

So, what have you forgotten?

Which box of crayons do you want, in all their color and glory, and are you ready to pick them back up as an adult?

What is the 90% you have cut off to keep you safe in your blazing fire?

It’s so common to believe we are alone in our struggles, to believe we are Creative islands and must isolate and suffer.  And we can build enormous black walls, stoking our fear, but this is not who you are.

No, you are something far more powerful.

Take a moment and remember.  Restore your heart,  by opening to your Creative beginnings, and exploring again.  

In the 95% you knew, and it’s a memory away.

Throwing Out the Artist

MoMA PS1

I walk into the wide room, art in all shapes and sizes affixed to the wall. The pieces are from children, renowned artists, and visitors to the MoMA PS1 exhibit.  Tacked up like giant boards of color, paint, pencil, and shapes, the room opens up on either side, where people sit to create an image for submission to the exhibit.

Underneath an artwork, a white rectangle sits, signed earnestly by the contributor, pledging in bold black ink:

“I promise never to make art again.”

 

“The personal journey for most artists starts with enthusiasm and joy, and ends, if the artist does not have huge success, in embarrassed children taking their dead parents’ work to the dump.”

Bob and Roberta Smith are making a call to artists currently at MoMA PS1 in Queens through their exhibit Art Amnesty. They are calling people to bring in art they never want to see again and/or leave their last piece of art on the walls, tacked up with the pledge to pack it in.

“I Promise To Never Make Art Again provides a baptism of necessary real life and allows artists to ‘Get Real’. Ditch a life of poverty and precarious self-employment! Don’t miss a life-changing opportunity.”

Conversely, the Smiths call for a final pledge:
“I will encourage children to be all they can be. Choose art at school.”

So, where does that leave art; are children the only allowed purveyors?

 

Fifth grade art class was a pure joy for me. I learned how to draw a face in proportion for the first time, and couldn’t believe the eyes were actually in the middle of the oval, as opposed to the upper half. I was exposed to charcoal and pastels and loved learning the shading techniques.

In middle school, the love was nourished through more mediums and textures, and while my clay mug came apart in the kiln, I felt most at home with pencil or charcoal in hand.

My childhood was an ocean of creative expression, and much of it was encouraged in school. From the pencil to the pen, to my dance shoes, scripts, and choir folders, I was nourished and fed.

Creative writing assignments turned into flowing stories on lined paper, my pencil requiring another sharpening from the use. As my childhood fingers adapted to the permanent indentation on my fourth finger’s knuckle, I entered my teenage years and found the holy grail of expression, poetry.

When my eleventh grade English teacher drew a chalk circle on the tile floor and proclaimed this was the “Poet’s Circle”, I knew with all my heart I wanted to jump in, paper and pencil in hand.

 

Why a pledge to never make art again, yet encourage it to continue in children? What happens when the child becomes an adult?

Worth and value, or the definition of it.

My refrigerator has been a gallery of rainbows and superheroes, lovingly given by my nieces and nephews, and friend’s kids. In the moment the crayon and stickers made contact with the crisp paper, the child was creating from a place of purity. The art was an offering.

The expectation went no further than the expression of their story.

As a child the value was made up of the actual translation, the scrawling with lips bit, and the elation of passing it on to my parent, aunt or family friend. And for me as the adult receiver, in placing a magnet over the latest unicorn fantasy, I was a collaborator in the exchange, and now possessed a colorful reminder of my own indented knuckle.

In an adult artist, where does the poverty begin?

Words can be thrown out like bank account, rent, and bills, but the shift occurs on a deeper level that bleeds into the process, once so pure as  ripping the page from your favorite coloring book.  Tied down with expectation of purely monetary success, how does this affect the art as a whole?

Poverty comes in many forms, not just economically.  Poverty shows up in our mindset, and flows into our actions.  If we come from a place of believing we don’t have enough, then we will cling and attach to all in our path and close our offering unless our predetermined demands are met. And if we believe we are not enough, then what could be created from this place, but something starving for attention, crying out in jagged shapes and separating in deep isolation.

But if the pledge to encourage children was taken on a larger level, we could all return to our “Poets Circle”, and pick up the paint brush from a place that is nourished and full, our bellies satisfied from a perspective of wealth.

And in that abundant mindset, we could leave the dumpsters to take out the trash, not our passions and dreams.

This is amnesty indeed.

 

I walk along with a group, following the docent as he shares the history of the Romanesque Revival building.  It’s Valentine’s Day, and my first time to  the museum.  I’ve wanted to come here for years, and listen intently, eyes wide as I take in the exhibits and brick walls built in 1892.  As he points to the black and white photograph from many years ago, I smile at my day’s education:

MoMA PS1’s original incarnation was the first public school in Long Island City.

First Grade