The hunt for inspiration as an artist is inarguably a daunting task. Over the past years, my sources for such have endured a transformation closely in sync with individual stages of maturity. In psychology, the shift of self-awareness follows the stages of brain development associated with age. This relationship is also true for the development of an artist.
Naturally, my beginning phases of art production arose from the self. The subject matter was always based off of some personal experience from the past and how this experience tied into my relationship to the world at present. In these earlier years, my motive for making art was to fulfill some narcissistic hankering of promoting myself and my intentions. It was almost as if I was constantly trying to prove a point about myself to the world. Conflict within conversations, relationships, and personal constraints were the driving forces of my creations.
At the age of 21, I became aware of this self-obsessive pattern within my artwork.
This realization was not an “oh-how-interesting-next-please epiphany”. No, it caused a deathly eruption to take place inside the only part of me I felt certain about.
It locked up the brakes on my creative engine and caused a chain reaction of rear-ending, bumper-crushing force from all the mental processes behind creativity. A series of events had led me to this point of self-actualization. The most impactful of these events occurred on the last day of critiques at New York Academy of Arts.
After mulling over my series of self-portraits, my mentor had looked up at me with a face expression one would expect right after taking a shot of Bacardi.
“I like the choice in color palette, but…. I don’t get it. I mean, this is you, right?”
“Uh, yeah,” I said, waiting for the punch.
“Well, that’s just it. This is you… doing… err… you… responding to actions that you have caused, inflicting emotion by… from… well… yourself… I don’t feel much connection to these pieces, except that maybe, I know more about you, but even that… well…these aren’t necessarily parts of you I care that deeply about…”
She couldn’t return eye contact afterwards and continued to search for some redeeming compliment.
“Wow,” I choked out.
Her eyes jerked up with uneasiness.
I curled my lips tightly around my teeth, closed my eyes, and looked up at the ceiling, hoping my tears would sink back into my eye sockets. I sighed and began nodding my head in mere defeat.
My mentor frantically scanned my face.
“No seriously, thank you… I needed to hear that.”
She understood and nodded back. Placing her hand on my shoulder, she crossed the room and left. Nothing else needed to be said. I had just experienced a tremendous shift in worldly perception, and I needed some time to think.
So now I was faced with this extremely uncomfortable dilemma of feeling like I was supposed to care more about worldly circumstances, when in fact, I didn’t. Not really, I mean, I wanted to care more about greater causes, and I knew that any decent human would, but my experiences up to that point were pretty limited by the lack of investment I had conducted around worldly matters.
I was never drawn to the hype surrounding politics. In fact, I strongly disliked the slimy effects ardent political opinions had on relationships and even one’s reputation.
I viewed one’s interest in politics as synonymous to the interest soccer moms took towards gossiping about other families.
The divergence in left and right-winged opinions had even torn apart my family, and the idea of personally engaging in that conflict left a terrible taste in my mouth. After an argument between my godmother, father, and uncles that left my family with a thick scar and permanent divides, I made a decision to disengage from what appeared to be nonsensical debates about matters unchangeable on the level of the individual.
My opinion about the importance of educating oneself about their country’s politics has changed dramatically, yet I embarrassingly admit my knowledge about the subject is substantially subpar.
So what was I to do? My initial instinct was to read more news articles, but I quickly discovered an annoying integration of politics surrounding one’s personal preference of news source due to the biased presentation of events by all parties.
After a deep exploration for truth, relevancy, and personal interest, I chose the only reliable authority of information in which I trusted. I chose science. More specifically, I chose to pursue a degree in Plant Biology at North Carolina State University.
Since then, I have begun a quest for inspiration external of the self.
This of course has led me straight down the rabbit hole of climate change, pollution, overpopulation, etc. Soon thereafter, I encountered an intense period of depression, grievance, and terrible stomach ulcers at the painful realization of how my ignorance and that of others is a leading cause of the environmental issues faced today.
However, I am hopeful. I am hopeful, because although humans have caused unimaginable destruction to this planet, humans have also been the sole preservers of life. We have produced immense beauty and conservation in our unique ability to care about organisms past ourselves, past our families, past our species, habitats, and even planet. This form of compassion from the human race is worthy of artistic inspiration.