Recently, I revisited an art book on my bookshelf on Judy Chicago. Chicago is a feminist artist best known for her work The Dinner Party. As I looked at her work, I saw how it chronicled her internal biography and life line: her anger toward men and patriarchy, her validation of the feminine and women and, in the end, her own healing.
As I look at all my creative projects, many still tucked away in drawers and notebooks and which speak to my own internal biography, I wonder about the purpose of art and the role of the artist. Art heals the maker as much as it does the viewer. Does that mean artists have a responsibility to share their work with the world?
I asked a friend about that recently and she said, yes, of course we have a responsibility. But if that is so, the task is difficult. We, as artists, are offered the image of the starving artist as both a dare and legacy and we fall into that story, constructed by those in power to keep us weak and overwhelmed in the face of such a daunting task.
But if we rise up in spite of that task, if we find a way to maneuver around it and overcome it, we step into a unique leadership role. Artists’ work is often their very lives and beings, as Chicago’s work and my own shows. That work requires courage and vulnerability and a persistent practice of demanding value for the work and the self that produced it.
Yet as we become skilled at that practice and learn to defend who we are and what we produce, we model the behavior for the larger society. In that act, we lead by our lives and actions. We also teach others how to stand up for and defend their unique expressions of self in the world.
Your Story: What “art” of the self is yours to claim and introduce to the world? Are you, in fact, introducing it? How? How not? What one action can you take to move forward?