I’ve joined this challenge with a commitment of reading 12 books by African writers throughout the Diaspora. I read about it at Deborah’s blog, as she is joining and listed her books already. She directed me to the sponsoring site and post, BrownGirl Speak. I’m not sure what my 12 will be just yet…but I’m going to start with Cion by Zakes Mda since I’ve started it already. Mda is from South Africa and is teaching at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.
This is a book about the process of how art gets made. For me the main benefit I received is what I perceive to also be the main intent of the book and that is to encourage artists to first and foremost have an indepth conversation with one self about how we create. Just about every page I found myself talking to myself…out loud! Occassionally I would say something I wanted to hold on to and think, “I need to write this down” for further exploration. Its a small book intimate book but it took me a few weeks to really complete it due to reading a page, talking to myself, writing, then falling asleep for the night process. I even started going to bed a little earlier to accommodate the energy reading it would create.
Orland seems to offer this exploration of one’s process as a 2 part cycle…first, engages the artist as individual; second, engages the artist as part of a community…with other artists, audience, and then just as a community member in the largest implication of just being citizens, family members, etc.
Its the 2nd half of the process that found me not as talkative. Even though I’m a member of a fantastic fiber/textile organization, and have held membership in other groups…its been difficult to find that sense of trust, friendship, artistic communion with other artists. For one, I can’t get past cliques and group politics and its hard to ignore the “isms” that sometime seem to surface no matter how innocent or unintended they may be. I do long for the connection with visual artists that I had/hold with poets. My strongest sense of community for my textile work comes from online friends that I come to know mostly through blogs. Off line living, I have 2 persons I can commune with over my art. When I’m at the Mellwood Studio I surprise myself by becoming this overtly (for me) “chipper” person. Maybe it signals that my expectations are high and there is some sense of safety since I’m in an “art community”. I expect that they will readily understand where I’m coming from.
For the most part Orland generates more questioning at a deeper level. One of the resolutions I’ll cling to however is Orland’s following statement: For artists the more relevant question is not whether art can be defined, but whether it should be. This statement strengthens my snarkiness toward the arguments over craft vs. art or serious artists vs. hobby or non-serious artists. For me, I leave this to those who like this topic for academic excercises…but personally the argument has yet to offer me anything useful and so I tend to roll my eyes whenever I come across it and then entertain myself with made-up stories about the lives of the people who love to engage it. To paraphrase Ray Charles, lets just do what we do, let the art do what it do! As Orland also states, “the prophecy is in the artwork itself.”
I know this book will become dog-earred, food-stained, and well-loved as I return to it in upcoming years.