Own Your Art

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"Don’t let fear keep you from doing what God has created you to do. Have the courage to try," writes author/curator Tammy Hendricksmeyer in a community contribution to our "Art Matters" theme. "The world needs you to show up...[to] recover your creative self and own your art."

Two years ago, I stood in front of homeschooled high-schoolers. As I talked, I waved my hands in the air. I taught for a semester that year, and the students quickly learned I talk with my hands.

From the podium, I was not sure how it would go. I hadn’t rehearsed what I’d say. Hadn’t practiced or laid out a rigid curriculum.

As I'd prepared, I remembered my own teenage years. I remembered how I had taken my oil paintings, short stories, poems, and doodle art pads and stored them away. I remembered how art was just an elective.

“How much dissolving and shaking of ego we must endure before we discover our deep identity-the true self within ever human being that is the seed of authentic vocation.” ~ Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

But I also remembered Ms. Gaiter, my English teacher whom I'd admired and loved. She inspired me to be different, even as I tried to blend in.

I remembered Mr. Margeson, my art teacher, who saw my eyes light up when I sat down to study how shadows darkened under a copper pot. He had offered to help me take my creative love on to college. I'd dared to dream it possible--for a split second. But real life outside of class dampened any hopes I had. There were more practical things to consider. As my senior year drew near its end, I had to think of moving out and paying bills. A college curriculum of art and English clashed with my reality.

I not only moved out; I moved overseas. My education was a trial by fire in Asian culture. I exchanged one dream--art--for another: travel. It was as if the two could not co-exist. At least, that’s how it worked in my head.

Yet, art lived on. It lived among coral reefs and caves carved out from an ocean’s tide. It showed up on craggy cliffs overlooking foamy green seas. It lived on a Texas farm under a cascading sun that turned winter clouds into cotton balls of purple and red. It revealed itself in blustery winds from an Alps’ peak towering over a building at the bottom of the Zugspitze. It spoke on a lake, where water lapped the beach in a soft schoon, schooing as it caressed the sand. It rested in a café on a Parisian street overlooking the Seine. It outlined landscapes on a Kentucky back road where karst terrain jutted lush green grass into large knolls.

It took me over a decade to come back, to finally embrace my love of art. Years went by before I finally affirmed and fully grasped God’s creative nature in me as an adult. This was not only for child’s play. This was God’s design--seen everywhere I looked. It is even part of our human DNA. Science is creative too.

What I’ve learned is that art never leaves. Art doesn’t grow up. Art isn’t defined by age. It is not an elective part of life. Art is anywhere your eye chooses to see it. God created because He is creative. Art is how you elect to notice it. It can also be how you elect to practice it.

“There is a recognizable ebb and flow to the process of recovering our creative selves. As we gain strength, so will some of the attacks of self-doubt.” Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

When I taught the homeschoolers, I wanted them to listen to their own lives, to be in-tune with the creative energy God put inside them. Not all art looks the same. But each one of us has a gift unique to us.

Once you find the art you were made to do, after you wrestle it, deny it, only to re-embrace it, you learn to own it. Life is loud and pushy, and art can get lost and forsaken. You have to practice noticing it.

I told the students to be brave. Don’t let fear keep you from doing what God has created you to do. Have the courage to try.

And this is what I need you to know: the world needs you to show up, too. To walk up to the front of your life, and your gifts, and stand solidly right there for a moment. Take a deep breath. Relax and give it all you got. Own your space.

Recover your creative self.

And own your art.