All posts by WildlyCreative29

So What, Now What?: Creating Wildly in Wild Times

Wildly Creative co-founder Shanta Lee reflects on the presidential elections in the United States through the lens of art and creativity.  Featured image is Truth to Power by Bill Dunlap.

 

It is difficult to turn in any direction in American life and not see any mass shock or despair over the outcomes of the recent presidential elections. While it is key to continue to move through the stages of grief and be where we are, yet there is another alternative as we try to understand what this all means as offered through art as a vehicle for our release.

“In dark times will there be singing?” Bertolt Brecht

The Vietnam War was a dark time that birthed a number of visual, written, and lyrical reactions from many artists. One of the most well known among these responses was John Lennon’s Imagine infused with the famous lines,

“Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace… You…”

A 2011 piece titled Kite by Abdul Rahman Katanani made a visual statement about the realities of the lives of children impacted by the turmoil in Gaza.

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Kite by Abdul Rahman Katanani

 

In 2015, Kyle Abraham, a choreographer with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, debuted the first part of Untitled America (a 3-part movement piece developed over a period of two years). Abraham’s work was a direct response to the prison system’s impact on black families in America.

 

Let me clarify my main point of using these examples. I am not saying that it must be the composers or songwriters, choreographers, poets, or any of the other shades of artistic witnesses among us who have the only license or skill to respond to the grief, dishevelement, and unrest within and around us. In fact, these are all sign posts (along with many others not mentioned here) and a more elaborate way of speaking to the famous lines offered by German playwright and poet Bertolt Brecht,

“In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing.
About the dark times.”

These current times, like many other passing moments in history, often stir the creative spirits of a sleeping populace.

And sometimes, the creativity and art that is awakened is in service to teaching us how to become better architects of our mundane lives.  When I woke up the morning after the election results after a few hours of sleep, I remembered Brecth’s poetic lines while thinking about a way to move forward with the rest of my week given the emotional pulse in the United States.

I was also reminded of an intersecting moment between national wounds, darkness, and art-making from this summer. On a Sunday afternoon, my partner and I journeyed to his family cabin in the woods with the hope of making art.  It was not unusual except on this particular day, we were stuck inside due to the rain while our ears were held hostage by the latest news commentary about yet another black life taken by a police officer. This time, the brutal act was captured on video for all to witness.  My partner was crafting a piece in response to all of this, I don’t know how to make art today” while I shifted uncomfortably in my skin and chair pondering about how these dark times would impact all of us.

Historically speaking, tragedy is not a new phenomenon. However, the moments of human trauma around the world seems to be accessible in such a way that we can all instantly witness the things that we may feel too powerless to control or address.  During that moment within that rainy summer day and in the middle of the shock I was witnessing the day after the presidential elections, I wrote. By that Friday, my partner and I decided that we needed to purchase watercolor paints and brushes. We stood hand in hand as he gave me a crash course in painting with watercolors.   The rest of the day was spent painting, writing, and putting the finishing touches on a dinner party we were planning with a few friends.

In reflecting on our post-election response, the words of Pablo Picasso and Elliot Eisner seemed to provide some additional wisdom:

“There are painters who transform the sun to a yellow spot, but there are others who, with the help of their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into sun.” ~Pablo Picasso

“Art is literacy of the heart” ~Elliot Eisner

Perhaps what we will be doing is transforming this dark spot into words, movement, living and our being with each other as we move through the pain of it all.

Maybe this darkness will be the canvas that we have all needed to become the catalyst for unzipping our creative souls.

And if we allow art to soothe what is hurting right now, we might just become literate and fluent in ways of loving, living, creating, and being.

quote-art-is-not-a-mirror-held-up-to-reality-but-a-hammer-with-which-to-shape-it-bertolt-brecht-34-76-95

Art, Awareness, and Ways of Seeing

Art can often be a great bridge for allowing us to become aware or really “see” and experience our environments in different ways. Around the world, there is a range of visual art (for example murals) to interactive creative installations that extend an invitation for us to be more present with our surroundings.

Elastic-CityMost recently, Elastic City has hosted free waking tours that allow individuals to move through and experience urban spaces with a unique perspective. In a recent New York Times article “Walking and Watching at Elastic City’s Final Festival” by Siobhan Burke, it is described as,

Whether taking tiny steps through Stuyvesant Town or using plastic bags as pillows on the pavement in Union Square, participants are invited to be curious, playful pedestrians.”

As I read this short piece, I was of course fascinated that individuals were being invited to experience space, especially urban space, in a different way but could not help but raise questions about what I was reading.   In what way can being seen and seeing become places of privilege or something to “try on” creatively versus how one actually has to experience their daily life? In other words, for the individuals who have (and do) use plastic bags or other items as pillows due to a state of homelessness, this is life, not an exercise.

I am not accusing or claiming that this might not have been a conversation that the artists had with visitors. Yet,  I can’t help but to ask the bigger question of all of us who may call ourselves creatives or artists:  what are other ways in which we use or engage others in art or creative endeavor to experience the world but ignore some of the ways we might suffer myopia in regards to the issues that may intersect?

In this case, Elastic City is helping individuals to experience space in novel and new ways which is important. Perhaps, there are ways of using that plastic bag as a pillow with some awareness of the individuals who actually live that space in real time. Maybe there are ways that the creative can be used as a realm for unzipping curiosity and play in ways that also bring awareness to the table.

More About Elastic City & Their Work

Check out the videos of some of the work and artists of Elastic City which goes beyond the example provided in the New York Times piece and this commentary.  And if you are in the area…perhaps you might want to engage in some of the exploring!

Feminism, Creativity, and Breaking Boundaries: A Conversation with Anna Fishbeyn

“I only got onto the stage after I had my children. When I became a mom, it gave me an enormous freedom in thinking about myself.”

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Recently we got a chance to talk with Anna Fishbeyn who is a creative in many areas. The conversation with Anna covers the interesections between parenthood, unzipping the layers of definitions as an individual and as a creative. Anna shares that creativity is “something that is constantly moving and evolving” much like our lives from moment to moment.  Anna shares, “I find it very strange that society has defined titles for us like writer, actress or filmmaker. I actually find that they are all intertwined.”

Find out how her creative life began on stage in 2010 with an array of vignettes including The Nuts and Bolts of Espionage i.e. Sex I n Mommyville to some advice she has for swimming in your own creative waters.

You can see more of Anna Fishbeyn’s work including her winning episodes of Happy Hour Feminism on VimeoOnDemand ($1.99/video). If you are interested in also helping to support Anna’s projects, you can also visit www.patreon.com/xofeminist.

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Check out more of Anna Fishbeyn’s work and websites:

xofeminist.com

AnnaFishbeynFANPAGE

SexinMommyville FANPAGE

MyStubbornTongue FANPAGE

HappyHourFeminism FANPAGE

Anna’s twitter handle is  twitter/annafishbeyn and her instagram is Annafishbeyn.

Is Creativity for Its Own Sake Dead?

Wildly Creative co-founder Shanta Lee poses the question of whether or not our creativity for its own sake is dead in the digital age.

emily-dickinsonDid Emily Dickenson do it? Did Van Gogh care enough about it, did it drive him? Would we accuse Jean-Michel Basquiat of it had he existed today?

The “it” that I am referring to is the popularity contest that everyone has entered into in the age of social media all in an effort to be seen or heard.   Have we left the age of creativity for its own sake? Are people now creating in an effort to be seen and heard at all times paying the price of quality in exchange for tons of anonymous views?

BasquiatCould any of the artists I mentioned be guilty of entering into or engaging in what seems to be a contest of attempting to gain 15 minutes of fame through a vehicle that allows anyone at any time to push their creativity out at any time?   We don’t know because let’s face it, they are not here now for us to test this theory (and that is pretty obvious). However, it is easy to draw the conclusion that creativity and art seemed to exist for its own sake prior to all of the technology that allows anyone to post anything at any time.

It is refreshing to see Emily Dickenson’s poetry or look at anything birthed out of anyone’s truth or creative vision pre-Facebook and see a level of sincerity in it that we may have lost. At the same time that I make this statement, one could argue that it is a bit unfair to compare intention of creativity pre-and post internet and social media. After all, how would I truly know what I am seeing pressed out in mass posts from various creatives (be it images, words, or a video someone is making to share their latest creative moment) isn’t coming from a sincere want of sharing for creativity’s own sake?

buy-facebook-likesWhile it could be argued that anyone I mentioned before all of the online hoopla was aiming for some fame and recognition (some monetary compensation does not hurt as well), my main point is that it just felt different. Recently, I was talking with a musician about this very thing as we talked about some of the work he was putting on Sound Cloud. We chattered in a crowded coffee shop about our disbelief and disdain over how everyone putting out their creative work seemed to be reduced to monitoring the number of “likes” or “views” they were going to get for music, visual work, or even mere words crafted into poetry, prose, or something else.  We pondered things such as: What does it communicate when you put something out that you have created and no one responds? OR Does that dictate that value of the creative product?

Buy-Facebook-FansTowards the end of that conversation, my friend used the term “digital shenanigans” to encompass what we were talking about. Digital shenanigans seemed to summarize the hamster wheel that we all seemed to be running on these days. Weeks later, the digital shenanigans entered my mind while I shared and re-shared some of my written work and thought about another recent conversation in which a friend asked me why I did not yet have a Facebook page for my photography website. My answer to her included the fact that I was afraid of not reaching the same popularity or “likes” that I’d seen for other similar types of pages.     “Oh “likes”? You can buy likes!” she said with ease and yet that didn’t feel right to me either though I knew she was sincere in her suggestion.

In the age of our ability to buy likes and appear popular to gain an audience for our creations….is it all worth it if creating for the pure sake of creating is not at the very center of it all?

And of course, I still wonder what Emily Dickenson, Van Gogh, or Jean-Michel Basquiat would do in this technological age.

Meet Toni Nagy Writer, Filmmaker, and Creative Dynamo

 

indexToni Nagy is a writer for Huffington Post, Salon, Alternet, Elephant Journal, Thought Catalog, Muses and Visionaries, Do You Yoga, and her own blog Toni Bologna. She has also written, directed, edited, and produced many short films, and hosts a podcast called The OverShare Show. She is on the board of the Monadnock International Film festival, and chair of the board for an organic farm called Farmer John’s Plot. She owns a dance studio in Brattleboro VT called SoBo Studios, and is an active member of the artistic community.  To check out Toni’s latest comedic work, you can watch 5 Reasons Why Feminists Should Vote for Donald Trump.

Wildly Creative:  When did you start nurturing your creative life and why?

Growing up I never considered myself a creative person. I was more of a jock. I suck at drawing, and even though I love singing, the sound of my voice is used as a torture mechanism on Game of Thrones. When I went to college I started dancing, and my whole world opened up. My love for movement awakened the creative inside me that was hiding under GAP clothes. 15 years later I own Sobo dance studio, and choreography is one of my true passions in life.

In my 20’s I thought I was more of a businessperson than an artist, but because of some health complications, I entered into a depression. During this time I didn’t know what to do with my life, or how to approach my healing.   Because I was spending most of my days at home in front of a computer, I taught myself the movie editing software Final Cut Pro, and started making short films for Youtube. The sadness in my heart translated into wanting to make other people laugh. So I would make spoof videos about “human cheese,” and tampons made from natural and organic baby goats.

When I turned 30 I started writing. I had birthed a baby and was SUPER bored being home with her all day. Wait… sorry that was my auto correct – I mean I was totally emotionally fulfilled and happy. I started blogging about my life, and that has led me into a full time comedy-writing career.

Wildly Creative: How important is living a creative life?

My creative life is important to me because it gives me a true sense of purpose. I love writing, I love dancing, and I love making movies.   I never feel like I have enough time to do these things. I don’t look at my watch waiting for my day to end. I love Mondays. I am my happiest when I am creating. My spirit feels light, and full of joy. That is until my mind sinks into the rabbit hole of questioning my “success” and if I will ever “make it big” – that’s when I have a total panic attack and try to flush my head down the toilet. But don’t worry, that only happens once a day.

Wildly Creative: What advice to you have for those trying to lead a wildly creative life?

My advice to those trying to pursue their passions is to know the difference between a hobby and a career. Some of my creative pursuits are hobbies. I don’t expect to make money. I do them for the love, and for my own personal satisfaction. Other creative projects I want to commodify. Yet to make money, you have to understand the business of the art you are entering. That is a whole other beast to conquer. PR, marketing, finances blah blah blah… I just fell asleep. Self- promotion is hard, and it’s own skill. But in today’s postmodern transhumanist world, you have to understand it.

Want to see and hear more about Toni?  Visit:
Toni Bologna
The Over Share Show
Cave Light Productions

 

Featured Image Credit:  Taurus from the Dancing Zodiac by AquaSixio

 

Meet Dr. Maria Sirois, inspirational speaker and clinical psychologist

indexDr. Maria Sirois is an inspirational speaker and clinical psychologist who has worked in the intersection of psychology and well being for more than twenty years. She brings a depth of experience, weaving together inspirational story and poetry with research to enable us to move forward toward the life we most want:  one filled with vitality, health and meaning. Maria teaches internationally, and is featured often with Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar, bringing to audiences the latest tools and practices from the field of positive psychology that enliven our work, our relationships and our overall well being.  An author as well, her book Every Day Counts:  Lessons in Love, Faith and Resilience is used as a teaching tool in wellness centers, hospices and hospitals and brings forward wisdom from those who are living while dying.    For more information about Maria visit www.mariasirois.com.  You can also check out Maria’s TEDx talk on Living An Authentic Life by clicking here.

Wildly Creative:  How do you define living a creative life? How important is that for you?

A creative life is a life that is inclusive of whatever impassions your spirit or your soul. Creativity looks so different for every human being for some of us it is writing, dancing, painting, or sculpting.

However, I have come to understand creativity also as
how one creates beauty in a home or how one can be careful with language when speaking to a group.  Creativity can exist in terms of how you enable your teams at work to come together and spark a new idea or program.

Creativity is in the broadest sense an appreciation of who you are and how that lifts your spirit or your soul and how you bring that along everywhere you go.

Wildly Creative: What is your first memory of connecting with your creative self? Share your story with us!

As a young girl around the age of 6 or 7, I recall being fascinated by beautiful color stones and rocks. I remember that I began to put them into certain structures or pile them. It was the start of building a stone wall or something like that.

I was also drawn to natural beauty in crystals or stone and noticing a spark for me around beauty. Evolving from that, around the age of 10, I wanted to know the roots of words developed a love and appreciation for words. I wanted to know how to say them they had a music or melody to them. I remember being 7 years old and my parents getting me a small chalk board. Before I knew how to write script or very big words, I pretended I was writing them on the chalk board. I just loved language from an early age.

 

Another-piece-of-advice

Wildly Creative: What is the advice you wish someone shared with you about pursuing your passions and feeding your creative self?

I wish someone told me not to let school get in the way of creativity.  I was a perfectionist when I was young and thought that if I got A’s and did everything just right, I would feel worthy and get a place in the world.

Know that school is a piece of the story of growing and the creative life is integral to health and vitality as we grow.

Another piece of advice, as soon as you notice that spark within you, do whatever you can to protect time around that, do whatever you can to nourish that.   You’ve got to say to yourself, ‘Now is my imagination time, painting time….’ or whatever. Really hold it as sacred.

Wildly Creative: What drives you wild with inspiration and passion?  What is whispering to you that inspires you to create?

When I dance and when I move my body or exercise, it is like an infinity loop moving my body in joyful ways triggers this creative impulse and that spark of wanting to sit down and write. My most common form of creativity is writing. There is something about the health of the body that triggers creativity for me.

The wild or spark takes place when I hear a word phrase or poem or part of a poem and it is almost inevitable almost hard to put in the same moment bigger than myself, bigger than my body.

But at the same time, within those moments, I am so particularly myself and there is this kind of trembling and all I want to do is find a way to live within that word or that phrase.

There is a famous author who says that the more authentic we become the quirkier we are. I find that in this space, I am not even aware of other people’s thoughts about me or expectations. During those moments, I am just alive in myself.

Wildly Creative: How does one maintain a wildly creative live while navigating certain life difficulties or challenges?  (For example, tough relationships, mundane schedules, etc.)

Generally I think everyone has a choice. There is a crossroad moment you are given an opportunity to decide that you will nurture your creative life and you will no longer diminish your spark or negate it.

Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés—has that beautiful line, “You have to choose your own life force more than you like collaborating with your own oppression.” She is right, we have to choose and once we choose, do everything you can to protect that creative impulse.

I would say to my phone and various other things in my life ‘you don’t exist for the next few hours.’

The next thing is to keep tracking and noticing what you love because everything we love nourishes the creative impulse. For example, movement feeds my spark and my soul.  If I cut myself off from the things I love, I will cut myself off from my creative spark. If I keep following what I love, it will lead me to my next level of creative evolution.

There is a powerful intersection between inviting your creative aspects to live fully or express and your ability to create a life that is meaningful and in some ways happy. Some of us who are resilient who have a sense of loving our lives and no matter how hard our lives are, we’ve found a way for our creative expression to flourish.

Here in the West, creativity is considered an add-on. Yet, living a creative life is a far more nourishing aspect of the self than you might be lead to the believe. As you feed that creative field within you, you will be helping to shape a life that we all wish we had…a life that feels enlivening and meaningful even when it is difficult.

 

To Create or Create for Change….That Is The Question

“An artist’s duty as far as I am concerned is to reflect the times…”
(Nina Simone during an interview)

On this site we often talk about encouraging and inspiring individuals to create, but the question of whether or not to create has several layers.

Will you create?  Or will you create in order to impact change?

Will you use your body, your movement, your canvass, your camera lens, your pen, your voice to bring attention to the urgency of the now?  This question was inspired by this video in which Nina Simone talks about the duty of the artist to go beyond just creating…