A friend created these canvases. They keep pouring out of her like water over a precipice. At times I wonder if she feels chained to her easel, they come so rapidly, and she has confessed sometimes she does. They are inspired by the comments of a politician irritated by a woman who refused to be silenced. “We told her to be quiet but she persisted.” The woman, Elizabeth Warren, has persisted.
It has become a battle cry for women, some who proudly define themselves as feminists, some who find the word has negative connotations, all whom have found the condescension inexcusable. But what has amazed me, is how this event has had the unexpected result of not only inspiring action on the part of many previously quiet or perhaps complacent women, but that it has also inspired this radical and relentless creativity on the part of the artist, Louise Gallagher. In her blog http://www.dareboldly.com she explores acts of grace during challenging times and right now she is exploring persisting as a woman.
The idea that creativity is a gentle muse that inspires great works in the quiet recesses of your mind is a bit ridiculous in my mind. For some it is true I suppose. However, for me Creativity has always been a bit of a nag. She’s relentless. She’s brutal at times. And yet she is always with us, demanding that we work out the issues we have creating. For some of us it is building a machine that solves a problem, for others, it is healing from old wounds changing old patterns. For still others, its the creation of art or writing. But each time we move from the familiar into new territory, our muse has us in her wake.
The other thing I am realizing about Creativity is that it rarely exists in the familiar. It is a product of us stepping out of the familiar and purging the expectations. It is learning to play with color, with words, with our intellect, with the familiar, and bending it. Right now Louise is in the grip of societies expectations for women and she is bending them. Each canvas has the messages women in particular, but men also, hear every day. She then asks what would we do if we weren’t told these insidious lies and where would we be?
We wouldn’t be here.
Here is the comfort of the familiar. What are societies’ expectations for women and for men for that matter? They are comfortable, they are safe. They define who we should be, what we should do, how we should act. What they don’t do, is ask who we are, who we want to be, what we want for ourselves, what fascinates us? It doesn’t ask what needs to change or be expressed. It doesn’t want us to play in the unknown. It wants to define the familiar.
Most of all, Creativity asks us to have faith. It asks us to risk the path to the unfamiliar and dance along it without fear. It asks us to try the untried and see what happens. It asks us to risk making others uncomfortable and see if our creations resonate with anyone. We have to jump into the unknown and pray for a landing that won’t hurt. Sometimes it does you know. This jump into the unknown can be uncomfortable, even painful. Sometimes it rubs a spot raw.
But maybe the reason it rubs raw is because the old doesn’t fit any longer. What is familiar will strangle if it is left too long without adjustment. It cuts out light, cuts off circulation, and kills off the most vibrant urges in all of us.
Maybe who we are is not defined by other’s expectations but by our own urges, our own aspirations. Yet in those spaces we are undefined, unsure and simply playing. As adults we don’t play. We follow menus, patterns, and instructions. We don’t boldly go into the unknown as Creativity demands. If we want someone to confirm our direction before we go, Creativity will get irritated, maybe leave in a huff. She wants us to play with her, if we are willing to explore.
But what if we weren’t so tied to the plan or curriculum for our day? What if we sat, unsure before an empty easel, or an empty page and just had faith that our playmate would come. What if mud pie could be seen as inedible but having value? Could our next creation be fusion of barbecue and thai? What if the empty page beckoned and didn’t scold? Or if we interpreted Creativity’s banter as teasing?
I think too often we see a stumble in our creative process, as a threat. What if we could reach out past our fears and try something new. We could recreate our days, renew our lives, find parts of ourselves we didn’t know existed. Maybe that faith in ourselves and the entity that drives us all was not a taskmaster with an agenda but an angel inviting us to play?
Every culture has a story behind creation yet most of us, as individuals fear Creativity. Most indigenous people of North America consider North America itself, Turtle Island, where an unseen hand created beings from the mud on the bottom of the ocean. It implies a creative force that loves to play and to make something from nothing. Christianity would say God created the world in seven days and seven nights. And then there was light! He didn’t say, “Then we trudge on.” Egyptian myths say that the world was created out of an ocean of chaos. We all believe that Creation is inspired by the spirit to renew the world. Yet we often see Creativity as a threat. Something we should fear.
I think though that Creativity is often driven by making order out of chaos, at an individual level. What if out of our chaos comes beauty? What if when we struggle, we see the fellow soldiers in our battle? Because I’ve often found at my darkest times comes a blink of light, a play of words, a description that resonates. And if I let myself run, if I let it whisper along my arms, it somehow becomes hopeful and even joyful.
So Louise’s collection of women who are defying the constricts of society are playing in the chaos. Each one was awakened by the noise and relishing in the women dancing with her. She has not only persisted, but she defied the resentment seething against her. She is teasing society, she is laughing with her playmates, and she is affirming her worth. Creation is an act of faith that what we know in our hearts can manifest in others. It’s sharing our story, sad or joyful, knowing what we are, is part of the greater story. It is fearless, it is relentless, and it is being human.