Words are a funny medium for an artist.
Art is about expression and expansion. Giving form to an experience and (hopefully) expanding something in yourself through the process of bringing it to fruition.
As with most things in life, it’s a reciprocal experience. The artist wants to expand, and the viewer wants his perception/vantage point expanded.
It’s a happy exchange.
As someone who studied art history, and spends most of her days immersed in an endless bath of color, light, fragrance and texture (through gardening, cooking, and all of my other creative projects) the words on the page – sometimes – look cold and cramped. I judge them as a visually ‘less beautiful’ means of expression than perhaps a gorgeous painting, drawing or sculpture.
They are black and white, boxy, linear, confining – the exact opposite of how I experience the very things I write about.
In this way the medium makes me dig deeper, not able to get lost in the allure of washing bright crimson across a rough canvas…or the feel of smooth, wet clay passing through my fingers.
I am learning to make peace with the visual monotony of my medium, and to embrace the irony of it. The words on the page remind me that something may look one way on the surface, but can be very different if you take time to excavate what’s underneath.
Words take work. Work for the author to chip away, distill, refine, revise. Labor is required of the reader as well; to take the time to be with the words, to open to what they are trying to say.
Both participants have to really want it, otherwise the exchange is over before it’s even begun. Unlike a painting, which is often (sadly) experienced in a matter of seconds, the ‘viewer’ of prose or poetry is committing to spending a certain amount of time with you, just as much as you are committing to them. There is intimacy and trust here, even amongst strangers.
Yes, the writer’s life I’ve chosen (or that has chosen me) is asking me to look beyond its ‘flat’ exterior and dive into what’s underneath the surface. Using the words as a type of code, or as a means to decode or deconstruct something. To be brave and have faith that the words will land as they are meant to, and reach those who want to read them; building a bridge, or perhaps dismantling one that is no longer needed.