One of my favorite parts of the holidays is gift giving – thinking about each person, brainstorming gift ideas for them, making or acquiring the gift, and then wrapping it in colorful paper and ribbons. There is creative thinking and some handiwork involved that is very satisfying to the artist in me. In fact, during the holiday season, I usually derive more pleasure and excitement from the act of giving than the act of receiving.
Lately, I have been thinking more about the relationship between art making and gift giving. One person said to me recently “Art is a gift to society that the artist pays for.” This was a rather world weary response addressing the fact that artists are usually not well compensated financially for their hard work and dedication, and yet the art gets made anyway. My more optimistic attitude is that the artist is compensated in ways other than financial – namely the satisfaction of having expressed something from deep within that in turn can connect and communicate with others, sharing beauty, insight, and new perspectives.
One of the more provocative ways art can be a gift is anonymously. I have been so intrigued by the work of Keri Smith and her recent book, The Guerilla Art Kit. She defines guerilla art as “any anonymous work installed, performed, or attached in public spaces, with the distinct purpose of affecting the world in a creative or thought-provoking way." Her book includes great ideas and tools for guerilla art projects – some as simple as arranging a pattern of leaves in a chain link fence or chalking a favorite quote on the sidewalk. I love the idea of art like this that is ephemeral, generous, and perspective changing. I was delighted to interview Keri for the Arts and Healing Network’s current isuse of AHN News. As Keri explains in this interview…
“Coming across something that is unexpected helps to pull us out of our habitual ways of thinking and reacting to the world. This goes for the creation side of things too - we must tune in to the environment in order to allow it to speak to us and to notice the little things. This, in my opinion, is the greater purpose of art - to pull us out of our unconscious behavior and make us aware of something we might have missed. It asks us to pay attention, and, as I mention in the book, guerilla art says, 'the human spirit is alive here.'"
Keri also writes a wonderful blog, called The Wish Jar, which I often read with my morning coffee before heading to the studio. Her writing reminds me to slow down mentally, think creatively, experience and appreciate the details of nature, and enjoy the exploratory process of creativity. What better gift can art give.