Being a professional artist is an exercise in letting go. Letting go of your imagination, letting go of your creativity, and letting go of your creation.
These are fundamental learnings for life itself. Why is that? As we enter the toddler years we learn possession and possessiveness. In some cases we fail to acquire the confidence to grow beyond that, for various reasons.
Being a professional artist includes the art of letting go. How does letting go apply to life? We live opportunities for letting go everyday, they may come early in the form of sharing, letting go of relationships or issues that are not beneficial to us and our well-being, letting go of our children as they grow and require their own space to make their own decisions and learn from them. But why let go?
Possession and control are ways we use to give us the security we haven’t yet developed. We use these attitudes to fill the emptiness of our insecurity. Struggling with possession and control is an unfulfilling prophecy through which we can never have enough to give us the security we lack.
Generosity, trust, giving and sharing are the antidotes to this emptiness. When we make these attitudes our own we can expand our contribution, our self unto the external world that surrounds us. We can share our knowledge and experience, we can give others and ourselves the freedom to go our own way, and we can trust that what we teach our children will give them the tools to make their best decisions and find their own life path.
It is not easy. It takes much practice. Nothing could be a greater exercise of this life lesson as the creation of ephemeral art. What is ephemeral art?
The creation of art itself includes an act of letting go. Transferring that idea through our creative language into a materialized expression is the first step. Then there is the act of sharing the materialized expression. This creation is like a child and there can be difficulty in letting it go. Ephemeral art is not only an exercise in producing a materialized expression but it is created with the intentionality that it will not be permanent, it’s existence will be short lived.
Examples can be an ice sculpture, in my case, a pastel mural on pavement, or even a beautiful serving of a tasty dish.
While creating my last street painting in Alpine, Texas with the aid of local artists that included Alexander Costea, Mariah Rose*, Juliana Johnson, Rachel Maxwell, and the very talented and professional Feather Radha, we were also joined by Skye Valenzuela, Brandt Mannchen and three creative youngsters who experienced pastel color on pavement. We were at the 2015 Artwalk.
The question almost everyone had who came to Brown Dog Gardens to see our work was, in brief, How will you make it permanent?
The mural was a 10 foot by 20 foot area depicting a romantic vision of Alpine with its beautiful Twin Sisters peaks, an 1888 Southern Pacific Railroad engine and a beautiful Mexican Calendar girl to incorporate the strong cultural presence in its history, all in the beautiful pre-sunset colors of the West Texas landscape.
Hearing the concept of ephemeral art, people’s next question was, How long will the painting last? The answer was that it was dependent on the elements like the wind and the next rain.
And lo and behold, even the artists were tested when reaching the final strokes of the mural clouds began to form in the dry desert. All artists converged on the remaining unfilled area to complete the mural and beat the rain.
As drops began to fall strokes became more rapid, beautiful people scurried to get a tarp and tents, and I had to tear everyone away when the sky opened up into a generous and needed rain in a still drought-stricken area.
“We can’t salvage it now,” I told them. It belonged to the rain.
Everyone stood undercover and watched as the pastel work turned into a watercolor stream that puddled in various directions swirling color beyond our taped boundary.
I have to admit, this is not my first ephemeral piece so I had an emotional advantage on everyone. I can tell you that it was not easy to grasp the concept that all that hard work on hands and knees in the cool air and hot sun to pour artistic talent into chalk on pavement that would not be there to testify to the effort of two and a half days work was not hard to grasp but to see it diluted in a quick and unexpected downpour before our eyes was tough.
So I smiled and relished on the pleasure of creating this art piece in the company of beautiful artist, surround by beautiful people in a beautiful environment. That I keep with me always.
* We heard Mariah had a fender bender on her bike the night before we finished and was unable to join us due to a broken nose. We wish her a painless and swift recovery.