Nurturing the Inner Artist / by Jeannine Cook

Hope does spring eternal... I assumed that once I was back at home from my hospital stay, I would soon be able to get back to creating art. Not quite so, I discover! An arm sling and other medical "accoutrements", plus a good dose of rummaged-around nerves and muscles don't yet make it easy to pick up pencil, silver stylus or paint brush.

Nonetheless, one does not just turn off the artist's eye. As I first walk into our house, the golden, crystalline late afternoon light floods across the marshes and water in front of us, and I marvel. Still waters reflect a heron's white body catching the rose-orange glow of setting sun as it flies across the creek. At early sunrise, the next morning, the eastern sky's brilliance allowed enough light to sparkle rings of water in the creek below us: the otters were fishing for breakfast. At each of these marvellous moments, I find myself trying to remember, to store up the images so that later, they can, somehow, show up in my art, so that I can share these wonders with others.

Within the house, I look afresh at things I have not seen for ten days. Shapes of orchid petals, shadowed into sculpture, tillandsia flowers which have fully opened in my absence into elegant rhythms amid their undulating tendrils of ephiphyte energy, shadows of ornaments lengthened in the morning sun... These are all aspects of life that can be woven into art-making, I hope.

As I delight in the beautiful natural world in which I am so fortunate to live, I am also reminded of the diversity of optics that artists have on the very concept of making art. Catching up on the March issue of ARTNews, I found a remark which resonated : "...Duchamp made it quite clear a long time ago, and so did Warhol, that art isn't an inherent form but a lens and a set of tools to interpret the world around us". (my emphasis). This was a remark made by Nato Thompson, chief curator of the non-profit public arts organisation, Creative Time, in rebuttal against questions and criticisms about whether works about community or social change are art. Carly Berwick was examining "A Different Way to make a Difference" in public art, methods that are poles away from my personal approach to art, but which are meeting the needs for socially engaged art, particularly in urban settings. The article reminded me forcefully that we are all very diverse as artists, with reactions and concepts that vary enormously, not only because of our surroundings but because of the stage in our individual life experience. So it is normal, and indeed vital, that each of us, as an artist, speak in our own voice, because society needs our diversity of inspiration and creation to help interpret and celebrate the world.