Art has been a lifelong interest. Ever since I can remember, I liked it all – drawing, painting, photography, printmaking. It started with looking at books. I would sit for hours, looking at famous artists’ creations. Early on, I decided I wanted to try to make things as well. Learning different styles is a journey. Every media is so different. And each requires time and discipline to master the technique. It took many years to learn the basics. Developing a personal style took even longer.
Even with years – decades, really – of learning and practice, my style changes. I have periods of time when I prefer a specific media. Or a certain color. There are also periods of dormancy. One time, I stop creating things completely because of labels.
Everyone preaches the importance of labels. We are taught early on that we must pick certain words to express our identity. Artist, photographer, banker, doctor, husband, wife – as if these words could accurately summarize who we really are. When someone asks: “Who are you?”, how could one word possibly answer the question?
I found it difficult to choose an answer. Defining myself in this way limited my materials. But what also troubled me was the issue of legitimacy. Was I only a real artist if I achieved fame or financial success?
If I had to choose – a media, a goal, a specific destination – than maybe I just wasn’t an artist.
For a long time, I refused to define myself with labels. I also stopped producing regular work. It was a period of dormancy. There were many ideas within me . . . but I felt directionless in expressing them. One day, I was feeling very listless. Nothing motivated me. So I went for a long walk with my dog in the woods. We must have been gone for hours. I walked around, tears streaming down my face with frustration. Then, I noticed a wildflower.
My mood suddenly changed. I marveled at how such a thing of beauty starts as a small, dormant seed. It gets buried beneath dirt and manure, hidden from the sun. Yet it persists. It pushes through the soil, and unfolds its delicate petals and leaves towards the sun. It may appear to wilt and die, but it comes back each spring. The flower is never really gone. It just experiences a time of rest from the external word.
The wildflower doesn’t give up in the darkest hours. Instead, it adapts. It transforms. It grows. The stages of the flower parallels every artist’s journey I’d read about as a child. They struggled. They worked across various media. Their styles changed and evolved over time. Most were not entirely understood by the masses. Some were only legitimately discovered and admired after death.
Their work was still important. This wildflower I saw that day was important, too. It reminded me that I can be many things. There will be winters and springs in my life, but I will never be static. One word could never possibly express my identity. I can be whatever I want to be, whenever I’m ready.
Flowers are central to my work. They remind me that change, although fraught with uncertainty and fear, is always possible. They inspire me to keep growing, despite the soil, despite the darkness. They follow no specific styles or decrees. Flowers are the perfect reminder to be wild and free.