Over the weekend, I talked with my dear friend Kimberly, about the work in her current exhibition. She spoke of grieving the loss of her mentor, acquiring many of his tools for her own studio. Once all of his things were properly arranged in her space, she could no longer work in that room. This newly-renovated and seemingly perfect work environment, littered with ghosts.
The brilliance of her creative practice was that, for a time, she didn’t go in. She listened to the call of her heart instead of going in anyway and slogging through with her feelings turned off. Instead, she chose to attend to her grief, now physically living in that space with her.
She picked up different tools, worked somewhere else for a time, doing something that seemed rote and trivial, much easier than the complex work she had been doing — something “anyone could do” as she said.
It’s true. Anyone can grieve. But only those who are willing to find a way into and through the grief will ever find their way back out again.
Anyone can create. Only those who show up, no matter what, find a way to develop their creations into something that is beneficial not only to them, but to the world around them.
This is all that art is – a showing up. We show up under any circumstance. Art is not always some basilica ceiling. More often, it is an attempt, despite opposition. A constant building and tearing down and rebuilding. An acknowledgment of and a challenge to the limits in our life. It is a memory, a coming home, a self-assigned order in a chaotic world. A prayer, a conviction exposed, a longing fulfilled, a change. It is a process, a moving through, a deepening, an opening, a lesson. Always, a lesson.
Kimberly’s new works are on display alongside three other resident artists in our community, artists who have built galleries and studios and mutual support systems with their bare hands and their grit. Their galleries are closed for the foreseeable future, but the art is there, in the windows. Even in this unpredictable and unprecedented time, they continue to tear down and build up, to draw in and share out.
The exhibit is spread between four spaces, and each window swells with grief and resilience, loss and presence, challenge and triumph. It is heavy, but also light. Gold and coal, raw wood and extravagant frames. The art shows the beauty in the grotesque, humor in the dark. You can feel the community culture as it interlaces four individual spirits, presented in a way that protects and proclaims: We are here for you. We can do this, together. Each voice, part of the whole.
I cried when I saw it, a little for the shuttering of these spaces but mostly for the joy of their resilience. The spaces and the work itself hold their power because these artists have taken a silent oath. It is one that we all must take as creators:
We create so that we can be free on the inside, no matter what’s going on outside. We stretch our creative muscles so that our whole being can be released. We share our works so that others may also unchain themselves.
Art like this is critical, life-affirming work, and anyone who can must do it. We must keep showing up. For ourselves, for each other, in any way and every way that we can.