In October 2013, I had the pleasure of writing for the inaugural issue of 'in residence,' the Vermont College of Fine Arts' Alumni Magazine. This link will take you to the ISSUU site where you can view the entire magazine, or you can read the raw text below. My writing is on page 24-25 and is paired with some of the fantastic MFA work of Kerri Augenstein GD '13.
Creativity is the unexplainable of you—the constant contracting muscles of your heartbeat, the breath that in sleep moves in and out of your chest and the power that at conception split from a solitary cell into the seventy-trillion potentialities of you—able to read these words, able to discern their truth. Alumni magazine in hand, each of you continues the greatest creative conversation of your lives, the conversation with the self.
People often think of the human body as a fixed and constant structure, a form who’s state, diagnoses or sensitivities are definitions or sentences punctuated. Studies show the vast majority of the human body is in a constant state of change as old cells are discarded and new cells are created. The entire human skeleton is thought to be replaced every ten years. The human liver every six to eight weeks. The lining of the stomach every five days. Skin, two to four weeks, a primary evidence of creative power is encased by our own evolving Epidermis.
I throw-my-head-back-bare-my-throat-laugh when someone tells me that they are not creative, and that therefore I must be so lucky to be born creative. Lucky yes, but pulling the doubled edged sword of truth out of its sheath in my chest, I stab back, don’t you know how I suffer for my work? The same force of being that propels success, simultaneously wrestles us to the ground, knees raw psyche pleading. You are never not creative. You actively choose to set your phasers to creativity. Eyelashes to scope, sighting your vision to what the rest of nature already knows. To what you already know.
"Every act of creation is first an act of destruction." Pablo Picasso
Creativity is a practice like any other, it is a needy force of being. Like sit-ups there is an aching burn, a black-bottomlessness and a desire to quit. There is the futility and the faking it. As Carl Jung said, “one does not become enlightened by envisioning figures of light but by making the darkness conscious.” Within all there is a faith, a faith that like failing eyesight reveres what light remains; a faith repeatedly forgotten like how much you are beauty, like how much you are love. You are always both of these things, rest assured.
When we are worried about the past or projecting into the future we are not living in the present. The present is where creativity naturally occurs, where we can experience our unlimited power to create. In The Artful Universe, Dr. William Mahony offers that creativity is thought and consciousness itself and further he likens 'creative power to be equivalent to the functioning of the mind.' I'll pause with you now as we travel through the last hour of the Niagara that has passed through our cerebral cortexes. But this thought deluge isn't the problem -- on the contrary -- it's the unique gift of our human distinction. Creativity’s nemeses are the hard rocks of fear we find our backs pressed up against as the water pressure forces the breath out and up in one raspy wheeze. It’s the gnarled roots of judgement puncturing the placid deceit of surface before the Falls. It's the rudderless hull of the mind awash in the day to day.
GD MFA Candidate Terrill Thomas, in his most recent packet wrote that staring at a solitary raspberry leaf from his garden and marveling at the mountains and valleys designed to capture sun and water; that there is a tiny universe, a microcosm of life. The mystery of the universe distilled into a single leaf. This form of receptive attention is a practice of listening to your own creative vision. It's a presence with what IS to know the story of your work. Be it the work of your discipline or the work of your household, there is little difference. Even in the rich diversity of our humanness we don't need to be fixed as much as we need to receive, to listen to the wisdom of our own experience. Creativity can be chaos, can you navigate the inner-gaze towards empathy in your own experience? Can you see the all of you as the generative ground of creativity?
Watch a bubble as it rises towards the surface navigating the tension of the water, careening left and right, patient, yearning in its disciplined ascent, parting the surface of the water, liberated to atmospheric delight. Will you be the enamored expert of the rub and burn as energies collide and limitations bring form to emerging ideas? Can you rest in the questions of your work? No really, can you take a nap and trust what may emerge? Recognizing that in you, as you, is all the creative power you'll ever need.
August 2013 © Nikki Juen