Identifying Oneself as an Artist, Hearty Traveler of the Inner Landscape
Going into the arts felt like the path to my heart, or rather from my heart. When I chose my major of art/education with a psychology slant, I figured I was going into something a little fru-fru, but teaching was a respectable profession, right?
I loved teaching art to students in the public schools…I love art and the direct window into the soul it represents. But even more I love that art is a visual map of the psyche, a physical representation of the inner landscape that the artist is traveling.
As the public school art teacher, I had to adhere to lots of rules and codes of conduct, some of which were certainly appropriate and some of which didn’t take into account that the art class is a bit different than other academics. In art, we are dancing with the abstract, we are june-bugging with the spirit, and we are diving into and swirling with the subconscious mind. While other art teachers were having their hungry students making spray painted gold macaroni cigar boxes, I had the students painting their feelings, showing me their hopes and dreams through pastels, constructing new realities in their wood sculptures. I wanted to know that they were engaging with their inner self, and then I wanted them to talk about it.
I burned out after dealing with the politics of being a public servant in an institution that did not seem to value a person for their unique way of learning or being in life. While I miss teaching art to this day, it isn’t because I loved being in a classroom where students were forced to come, sit and perform as I required. It is because I loved how, when they touched their interior world, their eyes widened as they discovered the vastness of their inner life. This is why I am in the work I am in today.
Since my entire 25 years of professional life has been in the arts, whether visual, written or healing arts, I am allowed a certain latitude…you know, “she’s an artist; she’s a little out there, but that’s an artist for ya” kind of stuff. Being an artist or writer is self absorbed enough that folks don’t consider it the highest of noble professions, but tack on my additional titles of “intuitive and translator for higher consciousness” onto it and you’ve got a recipe for a genuine kook.
This makes some uncomfortable with me. While I have strived to build bridges by being polite and kind (and I am a genuinely nice person), it makes not a whit of difference if someone has already decided that I am a threat to their world view. (See entry about being called a “Witch” by the Pastoral Alliance in southern Colorado-that was fun. http://dev.liciaberry.com/blog/2010/01/10/what-is-a-%e2%80%9cwitch%e2%80%9d/ ) In that case, no matter what I do to bend over backwards to help the person see who I am underneath the titles, I just have to let them go their merry way without the benefit of my friendship, quiet counsel, or simply letting my eyes light upon them to kindly acknowledge their existence on the earth.
But there are folks who really get me, and it seems the closer I am getting to accepting myself unapologetically, the more folks who seem to be drawn to me and my work. It is a cruel (but effective) joke of nature that us insecure folks who desperately want the love and approval of others usually must love and approve of ourselves in order to attain that goal.
This summer I have been working feverishly, pushed by what feels like fire, lava, earthquakes and tsunamis, the very most potent and powerful forces of the earth. I’m sure it was no accident that a studio fell into my lap May 1st, and that these 5 fruitful months I have been coming to work every day, 9-5, to open myself to those forces to tell their story.
The result has been almost 100 pieces of original artwork and 60,000 words (so far) of what will be twin books published early next year. I’m thankful to have had a quiet studio to myself in order to bring through this work; it has enabled me to be still and undistracted so that I could hear my inner voice as well as the voice of higher consciousness.
However, there is a certain kind of madness that goes with coming to a solo work space every day, talking with invisible intelligences about how to plan the books, facing those inner demons that every artist and writer has to face. I believe that all artists are conduits, but in my case I am working as a conduit very consciously, partnering with the Great Mystery in order to be guided and accurately reflect the story that wants to be told. The madness is probably what all devoted artists face when we realize that the only obstacles that we truly face are the ones inside ourselves.
The inner landscape can be both marvelous and threatening. As I am a seasoned traveler and have been since my first sentence (“I wanna go on a trip!”), my interest has been to plot where I have been. I have always loved maps, anticipating the landscape and playing it out in my mind as I ran my finger over the road I would take. I also like to look at where I have already been on a map and replay the landscape I have already seen in my mind.
I find the inner landscape to be no different. Like vast differences we see in our own country, my inner landscape has high peaks, dark canyons, vast stretches of desert, coastline and grassy plains. Beautiful and tacky, welcoming and scornful…it’s all there. As I move through the different topography, I plant a signpost or create a landmark that says, “LICIA WAS HERE”. This is so I can find my way back to write about it, yes. But even more so, I am laying clues for my future self to find me.