Thesis Blog #4 - Excuses and A Fresh Start

So, I had a draft from February 8 that I posted today for my Blog #3 but I never added more to it. To be quite honest, the past two months has been extremely difficult for me. I had picked such a huge topic for my thesis and my research paper was feeling like a huge hurdle I couldn't quite surpass. I had my show for my company, SELAH, which I did everything for myself without help - which I certainly won't attempt again. I have also been suffering from an illness which we still haven't figured out or diagnosed yet on top of my anxiety which has been fluctuating but still has been rather bad. I am taking steps to take care of myself but as many artists know, your mental, physical, and emotional health are often the first to go in big projects.

I say artists when I really mean people, right? Yes. And no. As I dive further into the topic of my thesis and truly start to narrow down what I mean when I ask my biggest thesis question, the center of everything, I truly do mean "artist". I am not trying to be elitist or selective when I call out my own and talk specifically about the people who have dedicated their lives to an art form but I must be quite honest - what we are doing is a little different. Those of us who have determined that we MUST make art and it takes up enough of our time that it is indeed a career: we're in a different boat. Now, there are artists who have their full 9-5 job which is in whatever skilled area they have chosen or whatever puts bread on the table and on top of that, they make art. To those people: you are awesome. You are achieving a different kind of balance than what I have chosen in my life. I respect you - but I am not talking to you. I'm talking to the hustlers, those whose art is also their living, those who are trying to fill in the gaps where the art doesn't pay with odd jobs and tip jars and weekly gigs. When you have to hustle for your art, it hurts you a little more. When you love teaching but you have to teach 42 classes in a week to be able to have enough money to pay your company and for the rehearsal space, your art starts to hurt you. 

Where am I going with this? Great question. This is less of a well-thought-out argument and more of a thought dump so I apologize. What I am saying is that when you feel the additional pressure to make a living from your art, it changes some things. What things? I'm still trying to figure that out. Many artists view their work as their child (I don't), which means if you are monetizing your art, you're selling your child. Some artists view their art as cathartic release and even, to an extent, therapeutic. Some artists are trying to make things for the Greater Good, some as a reflection of Who They Are. I fall into the category of making art because I have something to say. Maybe that's the overlap of the previous two categories? I'm not quite sure but what I do know is that my art is greatly affected by how I view myself: my strengths, weaknesses, pathologies, fears, ideas, passions, insecurities, joys, sorrows, and the like. If you are a human, you are in the constant process of building, tearing down, and rebuilding your sense of self. As an artist, I am in the business of it. 

My art comes from a multitude of sources, influences, and ideas. Those come from 26 years of being affected by the world around me. The way that world affects me is a further amalgamation of the different ways I view myself through the lens of the world, which shifts and changes over time.

As an artist/human, this process is ever-changing, shifting, exploding, coalescing. I have spent my life up until this point thinking that there was one Me, the true version of myself, the one I know, the one that if I could just get people to see... This is not a productive endeavor. There is a multiplicity of Merediths that exist in this world: one for each person that has met me (because of their lens and how they view me through themselves) and then even a few more for the different ways I view myself. This is my thesis.

How does our sense of self develop and how is this reflected in the creative process? Not to drift too far from my ideas of madness and genius - because this is key in my own individual process - how does my sense of self and the way I view my work change the work itself? How do I allow things to affect me while I'm acting creatively? How does my mental health affect my sense of self? This seems to be a far cry from my original thesis idea but to me they are so interconnected. Feeling "mad" or feeling "genius" in the creative process is indicative of your own sense of self and where you are letting yourself explore. So many artists that I have read about or looked up to have suffered various mental illnesses and breakdowns. Sure, some of those were undiagnosed mental issues - but how many of them? How many of these lapses in "normal" and expected behavior were truly just parts of the work? A slowing or ebbing of creativity in the cycle of the creative process? How much does our sense of self, whether it be self-consciousness or anxiety or fear, affect the creative process and hold it hostage until we can allow ourselves to move forward again, taking steps to repair our sense of self?

Again, this is the work.