HEART YOU: Inspired by Jason Reynolds

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adore this heart, formerly known as a shell, created at daughter’s awesome daycare

Super excited to learn that Jason Reynolds has been named Library of Congress’ current ambassador for young people. Inspired by an interview that I overheard, featuring him, this morning on NPR – I’m gonna share some how-to-be-YOU basics. Reynolds reignited my sense of purpose, describing that his mother nurtured his love of writing and that he hopes to do the same for other young people. His mother, he noted something like,

 

“she told me that my stories mattered because they were mine.”

 

HOW TO BE YOU, WITHOUT TRYING (TOO) HARD: 

(Excerpt from Reframe Your Artistry, by Jessica Honig, Prodigy Gold Books, 2020)

Look outside of yourself. Notice the natural plus not-so-natural state of the things. Gather what you notice from your unique angles on life and the world. There is no wrong way to find inspiration in this way. Jot down notes for future inspiration:

 

The Natural World Around Me –

 

The Not-So-Natural World Around Me –

 

My Imagination –

 

True artists construct from whatever angles exist, with whatever materials spread out within and before them. In true artistry, the true part involves recognizing then piecing together the artistic angles. Angles spring from personal experiences (thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations), the world around us, and our imaginary universe.

Some artists prefer one of these angles more than others. Their work reflects this. Some vary between the angles and some flow seamlessly between all three. Take Wendy Whelan’s flow, for example. This longstanding principal dancer with New York City Ballet is also the subject of the documentary Restless Creature. In an interview with Fresh Air’s Terry Gross, from 2017, Whelan was asked how she felt about embodying the “ballerina” and if for her, like the stereotype, fulfilling this role resembled ultimate femininity.

Whelan responded to Gross’s (brilliant, piercing) probe by saying her own traits as tall, thin, and athletic filtered into the work she produced. Her personal traits brought an angular influence to the art. Therefore, she concluded to hardly relate to feminine stereotypes. This stance evolved based on self-knowledge and the art world in which she practiced. This gifted artist has maintained an awareness of mind, body, and imaginary worlds to deliver art for over thirty years. At 51, Whelan continues to make art – after retirement from ballet, a major hip surgery, and with no less tenacity than her 17 year-old self. The art just looks different and has different intentions. Her roles demanded and continue to demand a high caliber of physical and mental awareness.

Without calling it that, mindfulness integrated her personal being alongside what choreographers, culture, and the rest of the universe asked of her. Even if you’re not a former ballerina type (and for the sake of biodiversity, I hope not), I want you to get clear about what personal and worldly and imaginary traits define your true artistry.

Do you tend to get inspired by your emotional states? Your physical structure? Your age? Your neighborhood? Your memory of childhood? Or, the invented kingdom sensed in your belly that, as you told your shrink, you figured everybody else probably had that too (um, yeah – that’s a personal reveal)?

I prefer the imaginary places. Maybe that is apparent to you after reading my philosophical blah blah blahs. My mind longs to go to places to which neither plane nor train can transport. I imagine kindness as a core currency and what makes us different makes us beautiful. Thoughts of global compassion fire me up. Imperfection is sexy. And I hope these angles come through as distinct elements of my art making.

Those elements are true to me and therefore belong to my true art making. Every artist will be different, as will every artistic moment or decade in a true artist’s life. But what makes mindful art original is the awareness of the creator to be able to identify their personal, community, worldly, and imaginary sources. With such awareness, narrow aesthetic values inherently erode. They are replaced by broader options, because no two people, no two places, no two moments in time could ever be the same.

 

GO ON, HEART YOURSELF…REFLECT IN SOLITUDE, OR I DOUBLE-DOG-DARE YOU TO SHARE YOUR ARTISTIC SOURCES WITH US IN THE COMMENTS SECTION.

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