Usually my living room tends to look close to this. I’ll admit I cleaned it up a bit before I took this picture. There was a few days worth of clutter, (seriously how does stuff move around this place soooo much), and I vacuumed which isn’t a big deal but my vacuum doesn’t suck so it takes a looooong time.
Last December I was sick for what felt like forever and one day I just needed a nap. I put the baby to bed and knew I could get a few more hours of silence from him. The big girls were at school. I set up the middle two with a snack and an all access pass to Netflix. I took a couple Tylenol and laid down in bed. I slept well, but I did sort of wake up once and I heard my daughter say; ‘it’s snowing.’. I thought, ‘how lovely, we never have a white Christmas.” and I went back to sleep.
I woke up a little while later to find my living room looking like this. That’s 10 lbs of flour and 4 kg of sugar, er, snow.
I surveyed the scene and in the shock of that moment I sat down and cried. I cried big crocodile tears for how much work was ahead of me to clean up that mess. I let myself ugly cry in front of two tender little souls because I obviously must be failing as a mother if this is what they do when unsupervised. I held my head in my hands and I cried.
I know they say, ‘one day you’ll laugh about this.” and I’m glad that that day has come so quickly. This memory broke into my consciousness while I was putting away laundry tonight, I didn’t invite it, it just came, and when it did I chuckled.
But my initial reaction to this creative, (albeit disobedient), endeavour of the flesh of my flesh was to cry. Gut wrenching, body heaving, sobs of the broken-hearted, over-tired, stay-at- home-mom, who just can’t seem to get a break. And I cried until my five year old daughter sat down and cried with me, promising on all that she holds dear to never disobey me again and clean the whole thing up herself if only I would stop crying.
Tonight, a few months later, the memory of her reaction to my reaction started me thinking about artists and how often they’re misunderstood. To my kids the sugar and flour was an excellent substitute for snow, they told me about skating on it, but when I was introduced to it all I saw was mess. Which got me thinking about graffiti.
(I apologize, I can’t find the name of the person who created this.) Graffiti is a pretty misunderstood art form. I think the action plan of the City of Toronto hits the nail on the head; “The City of Toronto’s Graffiti Management Plan seeks to support graffiti art and other street art that adds vibrancy and artistry to our streets while balancing the need to eliminate graffiti vandalism which can have a detrimental impact on property owners and neighbourhoods.” (http://www.toronto.ca/graffiti/)
Just because something is sprayed on a wall doesn’t mean it’s art, but there are some very artistic things sprayed upon walls. I know only a little about graffiti, but I do know it takes time. I know that when it starts off it doesn’t look like anything more than a mess. And I know that for every work of artistic graffiti there are 10 tags scrawled by bored folks for no purpose at all. Graffiti artists get lumped in with taggers and people storm their local politicians for more strict rules, to ban it all. Misunderstood artists.
Rap is another good example. I don’t like rap. I never have, I never will. Rap is definitely music. If you don’t like rap you’ve got a vision in your mind of what ‘all rappers must be like’ and tend to think ‘how could anyone listen to that crap?’ I know I do. Yet I also don’t really like opera. When I think about it I get a vision in my mind of how refined people who like the opera are and how cultured they must be and I am not. Both types of music I don’t like, but rap has a bad rap, misunderstood artists?
I can think of many more examples, Jackson Pollock’s works just look like messes to me and yet this one sold for $2 million. Art to someone, just not me.
I’m not sure I consider myself an artist, but I understand how every artist leaves a bit of themselves in every piece of work. It must be heartbreaking to have your art misunderstood. That thought brought me full circle back to myself sobbing with my head in my hands over the snow substitute in my living room. My kids are young, a lot of their art is going to look more like a Pollock than a Monet to me. But how I react is crucial. Crucial in building up or tearing down a creative mind. Crucial in expanding or limiting their expression of self. Crucial in adding or subtracting another artist from the world.
“I’m a misunderstood genius.” “What’s misunderstood?” “Nobody thinks I’m a genius.”
-Bill Watterson, Artist and Author of Calvin and Hobbes-