Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Artistic Vengeance

I have smothered my grievances and buried them beneath an inactive volcano, but eventually, with time and tension, they will come out in a fiery eruption.
--taken from my Fall 2007 morning pages

In 2007, while taking a creativity class and doing the exercises in The Artist's Way, I found myself writing the best piece of creative non-fiction I'd written in a long time. It is the kind of writing that I was supposed to be doing when I was in my fiction MFA program, but could not bring myself to do. It is the kind of writing that is honest and raw and revelatory, the kind that leaves the writer feeling exposed. And I feared exposure. So for almost 2 years I sat on it because I was too afraid of the bridges I'd burn if I ever publish it. What would people think of me if they knew how I truly felt? I had tried so hard to hide it, and had a lot of them fooled, I'm sure. But I am realizing more and more that I do not want to go on living with all this hidden anger. That critique I wrote about on here was the first time I can remember ever challenging a critic, and I felt a lot better after I did. So why not post my story?

I had taken all that pain, all that frustration, all that humiliation caused by the management of a certain evil furniture store I used to work for and created a narrative about it. The furniture store had fired me, the only Black designer in the whole store, and the only one who actually had a design degree, after less than 2 months for no good reason. But I told no one. I was hoping they would pay me for my silence. But after waiting almost 2 years without so much as a verbal acknowledgment of what they did to me, I have decided to break my silence and tell the world how they wronged me. And on Sunday when I clicked the "publish" button and uploaded my story on my blog, it was so deliciously cathartic. It was an exhilarating act of artistic vengeance.

I have realized that a lot of my visual art is also an act of artistic vengeance. A few months after starting my work on The Doll Project, it occurred to me that I had applied to both Mattel and MGA for jobs and internships. One spring break in college, I spent the whole week applying for internships while my roommates went on a trip to Hawaii. Mattel was one of the companies that said, when I called later to follow up, that they get so many resumes that they couldn't possibly know where mine was but if they were interested, they'd call me. Of course, they never called.

Take that, Mattel!

I was also interested in advertising. But no one would ever give me a chance to work in that field, no matter how many internships I applied for. Same for film. Same for television. So I think my current interest in deconstructing the messages of the media comes from a desire to strike back at the fields that would never let me join them.


Likewise Recessionism is also born of frustration. How long must I and others like me remain underemployed in a job market that has completely failed us? How will anyone be able to retire? What's the point of saving? What's the point of investing? What's the point of money? Why do we give it so much power? Why don't I have more of it?

uncle sam wants you to spend this cash - detail

My frustration with working in retail for all those years is probably the inspiration for Post-Consumerism, which is what I am planning to call my series of works made with cardboard and shopping bags, 2 things that constantly surrounded me when I labored in the various circles of retail hell. I get to tear up the boxes and melt the shopping bags with a hot iron, and it gives me an incredible sense of release.

Adaptive Reuse 2

I never set out to get revenge on anyone. But I am realizing more and more that my art is often an expression of my own subconscious anger. It is made like pearls and diamonds are made, from irritation, from years and years of pressure. I like being able to take all the ugly things that are bothering me and make something beautiful out of them.

I know I am in good company. A lot of other artists have done it in the past and other artists are still doing it now. So for my readers out there who are also artists, tell me, what have been your acts of artistic vengeance?

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