Elsa Sara Victora Spencer
Copyright © 2015
Copyright © 2015
Rediscovering my Creative Endeavors and Pursuits
The artist I am became the artist I was, and it took this class as a wakeup call for me to rediscover my creative self. I have always had a love for photography, probably because it has always been a tool in which I can capture and present the world and all its beauty as I see it through my eyes. As Edward Weston put it, “to make a pepper more than a pepper.” What does that mean exactly, to make something more than it is? It means to see, to recapture, and to present something as more than what it is; to drawn attention to what goes unseen. And, it is that idea that I pursued my whole life, to capture the world’s natural, chaotic, and poetic beauty. I wanted to redirect people’s attention from the superficial drama of the world, and remind them of the beauty, that surrounds them, the patterns that are naturally occurring, and the obvious parallels between the human world we consider to be so separate from everything else, and the universe that has inspired our creation.
Unfortunately we have generated a hierarchy within the arts that has left little room for the dreamers and seers. While I came in to this school as a seer, and a person inspired by beauty, and though I got in with my photographs of nature, and technical skills in capturing composition, it was only a short time before the truth came forward. And, the truth is this, the capital “A” Art World isn’t about seeing, or believing you are an artist, it is about proving you are. The Art World has set up an institution that calls for assimilation and concept development. I spent my whole first year here struggling to remain the artist I wanted to be, because as far as I knew, I was an artist. I lived and breathed the arts but it unfortunately was just not enough. In order to survive here, to get good grades in my art classes, I had to switch gears from being the girl who wanted to show society how she saw the world, who wanted to change the worlds perception of beauty with a photograph, to the girl who desperately began developing conceptual work. I changed my style to meet the needs of the contemporary and abstract Art World, and assimilated to its community just to get by and fit in; because we all know how awfully hard it is to be different. I was the minority group, in a school that had no room for it.
The most unfortunate part of this whole experience was losing myself, hiding my true passions, in an attempt to slip by, unnoticed, so that I too, along with my peers would be considered an artist by my professors. But it wasn’t until this past year, and taking this class, that I even realized I had completely lost myself, and my drive for photography.
I struggled these last 4 years to make work. I was creating, but there was a part of me that continuously felt disappointed in myself. I wasn’t getting the same excitement for my work that my professors and peers seemed to feel when they saw the work I was creating. But I realize now that is because I lost myself in an attempt to hide the artist I wanted to be. I changed what I made work about to please those around me, I started passing as a conceptual artist because I was told that is what it took to be an artist in today’s world. I stopped making for the pure fact that I was inspired by something. I stopped taking photographs just because I wanted to, and I found myself only picking up my camera when I had an assignment that needed to be fulfilled.
I began to make my discovery of my own passing, and self-loss when we read the prologue to A Chosen Exile by Allyson Hobbs. She states in this reading that what some don’t consider is that passing is a form of loss. Those who choose to pass are making a choice that leads to the creation of a new identity but the loss of their truest one. That in the case of minorities it may lead to the loss of a home, family, and friends, because once someone of color chooses to pass as someone who is white they often cannot return to those they love as doing so would out them as who they truly are. It was in this reading that I began to see the parallels in my own life. I had lost myself. I wasn’t inspired anymore because I was the minority in a sense. I made a choice to change my art completely in an act of self-preservation, because at the time failure seemed like the only outcome if I continued to make the work I wanted to make.
The next step in recognizing the hidden part of myself was in reading Covering by Kenji Yoshino. He describes multiple steps in the process of hiding ones identity. I could begin to see how I had unknowingly both passed and covered aspects of my artistic identity. I continuously tried to pass as a different artist than I was, I worked hard to seem educated in art history, and avoided showing/talking about my straight formal photography. And then, even when I made work that was inspired by my love of natural beauty, I would cover –downplay its obtrusiveness—by giving my work a more abstract and conceptual flair. I did this by faking it, and sometimes staying up all night considering my works “deeper meaning” until I had something conceptual to say about it in the next morning’s critique.
Realizing that among the many reasons that we as people choose to hide, that I too have done the same over these past few years was both heart breaking and eye opening. I can now see the many reasons I have suffered, because like so many others I have lost something. I lost my drive and passion because I felt the need to assimilate. I also realize now that assimilation can happen without even noticing it. When you have had enough people say negative things about who you are, it’s so easy to migrate towards sameness in an attempt to preserve what is left of you.
So, for my creative activity I decided to begin rebuilding my portfolio. If I want to be a difference in society, and if I want the need for assimilation to come to a halt, I can start with myself and refuse to hide my identity from others. I spent this past weekend exploring like I used to, and for the first time in a long time I kept my camera, my companion, at my side. I left all of the contemporary art world’s requirements at home, and explored the world with open eyes and wonderment. I went out with a need for self-rediscovery and I think for the first time in many years I felt inspired to the point of overwhelming emotion. Because I made an effort to remind myself of why I love art and photography, the world’s beauty unfolded before me. Through my vulnerability and my eye for beauty, the patterns, and natural world fell at my feet and posed for me in the way that it used to. I managed to photograph enough animals, trees, water, and the beauty of nature to make a substantial step in the direction of a portfolio that will better represent the artist I want to be and the art I want to make.
The hardest part, which will continue to be my struggle, is silencing the voices that say my work isn’t good enough and that it cannot exist in today’s Art World, the voices that have been generated by the harshest critics. I have to continue to remind myself that I don’t need to please anyone with my art, there will always be haters, but there will also be those who get it; those who are moved by what I have captured in my work, and feel inspired by the world through my photographic eye. The struggle will be worth it because I will no longer feel lost, and I will be proud of my identity. The biggest gain in this process of rediscovering my hidden artistic pursuits has been, and will continue to be rediscovering my love for photography, and the artist I am. Not only that, but also in rediscovering my passion for photography and inspiration, I have seen that through my struggle here at Cornish, I have strengthened my photographic skills and eye for composition on a whole new level that will continue to better my photography, but the way I want to do it, for years to come.
This class has been more than a learning opportunity. It has been a tool for inspiration, a gift in disguise, as it has been the first steps in rediscovering myself, and a push to strive for everything I want to be moving forward.
Yoshino, Kenji. Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
Hobbs, Allyson Vanessa. "Prologue." A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life. N.p.: n.p., n.d. N. pag. Print.