Do You Know What’s Driving Your Work?

With Barbara Bash in her Hudson Valley studio. Photo by Deborah Degraffenreid.

 

When I began the Creative Mix interviews, I was on the fence about whether I would conduct them in person or by email, whether they would be short-form pieces that followed a formula or long and rambling recordings that I would transcribe and edit. The former would be simple and predictable, the latter labor-intensive. For my first interview with Jen Chenoweth, I experimented with both.  While Jen provided thoughtful answers to my e-mail inquiry, when we met in person, our discussion opened in ways I didn’t expect.  With time and space to follow a thought to its end, we could go deeply into what drove her work and her non-profit, Generous Art.

 

Interviewing for the long-form, I’ve learned a lot about listening. Unlike conversations over coffee where you interrupt one another constantly, or more evolved communications where each person takes a turn listening to the other,  this is a one-sided affair. I ask questions, request clarification, lead the discussion down avenues I think will interest my readers, but otherwise I shut up. The women have a chance to explore in-depth their past and present work, the decisions they’ve made, the influence of teachers and role models.

 

Putting ego and clever insight aside, it’s possible to see the vastness inside each of us.

 

I did have a more selfish motive for the Creative Mix interviews: I hoped to recreate part of my old life as a curator and critic. I missed going to artists studios, getting inside their process and seeing how they lived. When I was in my twenties and new to the East Coast, I was fascinated by lofts and live-work space. I loved the idea of rolling out of bed and into the studio. Now in my fifties, with a teenage daughter, a house, and medical bills rolling in, I was curious how other women were handling their multiple responsibilities. I often feel like an urban anthropologists, getting the scoop on how women are living their creative lives on the ground, right now.

 

As the interviews have progressed, other pieces of my old life have surfaced. Old habits die hard as they say, especially habits of mind. I found myself looking for patterns in artists’ lives, seeing how one thing developed from another, the same work I did as an art historian. When I asked artists about transitions in their lives, for example when Barbara Rick moved from network television to independent filmmaking or when Connie Arismendi moved from making objects to public art commissions, I could see what was underneath the work, what drove it all along. Even more exciting was witnessing the artists make those connections.

 

As I was wrapping up my conversation with Barbara Bash last December, she confirmed that in addition to providing inspiration for my readers, I was providing a service for the artists I interviewed. Later it dawned on me that it wasn’t only the content of the interviews that could serve potential clients, but the format. By looking at the trajectory of one’s life, we could detect patterns, understand calling, and move forward with a sense of purpose.

 

Can you imagine sitting down with someone and telling them about your creative journey without interruption? As if you were being interviewed by a journalist who thought your life was the most fascinating story she had ever heard?

 

Everyone’s life is interesting. Everyone has something that is trying to get born through them. How could you get perspective on your life’s journey and see the path leading you toward your creative calling?

 


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