As my first semester at California Institute for Integral Studies came to an end, I had lots of opportunity to reflect on my art, myself and my journey. It seemed that virtually everyone of my classes asked for some type of culuminating self-reflection, which, I suppose, is the basis of a creative practice driven by inquiry. So I thought I'd share one of those reflections with you here!
Happy new year folks!
August 28th seems so far away now that it is difficult to comprehend that it was only three months ago. Only three months ago I was anxiously preparing 60 seconds of material to share as an introduction of myself to my new MFA cohort. And today I find myself trying to determine if my upcoming fifty-minute slot will be enough time for me to share the entirety of my current creative exploration. It is amazing to track transformation. I feel like all transformation happens somewhat in this regard: in one moment something feels so completely true and real, and it is seemingly the very next instance in which that very thing feels so radically different. And even more, it seems that this new feeling was always there. If not for our journals, and photographs, and witnesses, and art projects along the way, I wonder how we would ever know that a transformation had in fact taken place.
In reviewing the various postings and reflections that I have submitted for Interdisciplinary Arts Workshop, I can see that my investigation into personal and grander scale transformation has maintained a close relationship with vulnerability. From my first Portfolio Posting I have been confronting my own vulnerabilities as an artist, and also as a human. I started the semester feeling like to simply show up in the dance studio was a great leap of vulnerability. I unearthed my fears of not feeling good enough – technically skilled enough, smart enough, articulate enough, creative enough, interesting enough. I sat with those fears and discomfort as I paved a creative path into the themes LAND, HOME & JOY, all the while working to keep the fears distinct from the themes. But in sitting with the discomfort alongside the LAND, HOME & JOY, I found them all far more intermingled than I anticipated. I came to believe that each piece of work I created would undeniably be a self-portrait. There was no way to extract myself (my feelings, my history, my beliefs) from my work, so any attempt to do so would be futile. Furthermore, what subject did I know better than myself? And if I would inevitably show up in my own work, why not follow that path wholeheartedly?
My wholehearted journey into my artistic practice has birthed my excitement around the folk choreographer. I am still grappling with the components and edges of the term, and I imagine I will do so for some time to come, but one aspect that feels important to me is personal expression as a point of communal connection. Drawing on feminist theory, I have grown interested in the “personal as political”. I am drawn to consider personal expression as a radical act, and have committed to pursuing that in my current work. I believe I came to this MFA program hoping to do “important work”, that would be somehow outside of myself, and therefore greater than myself. However, my research and experimentation this semester has led me to believe that the greatest story I can tell is my own. My full commitment to the telling of that story requires a deep and vulnerable investigation, which does extend beyond myself. By sitting with my vulnerabilities, and digging into them, I am opening the possibility of telling the story of being human, the story of being a part of the natural world. And I do think that is an important story.
Sitting with my sense of vulnerability has opened all manner of creative avenues for me this semester. I have found myself writing songs, creating videos, designing sets, building nests, manipulating sound scores and envisioning full lobby installations. The process of staring my own vulnerabilities directly in the eye has revealed creative interests that I had not previously pursued, or even considered. It has been a great time of play, growth and liberation. And I am left feeling an expansive sense of possibility.
This semester has been an opportunity for me to begin to unpack my personal aesthetics in earnest. Self-portraiture as a frame for art making is one aesthetic element that has emerged. The relationship between individual and collective, between performer and witness has also continuously shaped the development of my inquiry. As I move forward in developing this piece, I am interested in continuing to research both of these components of my creative practice.
I recently came to consider both home and landscape as self-portraits, and would like to dig into this concept further. I would like to look more into the work of Frida Kahlo, who I was inspired by this semester, and reflect on her practice of creating self-portraits. I can also see that in my current work I am building a complete and fantastical world, and I would like to study the roots of this impulse more fully. I recently re-read the childhood classic Where the Wild Things Are, as I considered how does one build a world? And why does one build a world? As I dig into the construction of fictional worlds, I would also like to ground into the physical world in which I actually find myself. I would like to deepen my understanding of land formations, landscapes and geography. I believe this will sew together several of the aspects of the work I am currently building, as well as support my investigation into my larger aesthetic.
Here are some resources I'd like to dig into for further research:
Brown, Trisha (1971). Accumulation.
Das, Surya. (2004). Letting Go of the Person You Used to Be: Lessons on Change, Loss, and Spiritual Transformation. New York, New York: Broadway Books.
Parker, Mary Louise. (2015). Dear Mr. You. New York, New York: Scribner.
Oliver, Mary. (1999).“Building the House”. Winter Hours: Prose, Prose Poems and Poems. Boston, Massachusetts: Houghlin Mifflin Company.
Sendak, Maurice (1963). Where the Wild Things Are. New York, New York: Harper and Row.
Bill Moyers Interview with Maurice Sendak: http://www.pbs.org/now/arts/sendak.html
Jenni Olson Films
Grimm’s Fairy Tales