This month, I am celebrating artists who have actively designed a creative legacy, how they have shaped my creative experience in the here-and-now, and how their creative legacy continues to inspire others.
Sitting down and pondering legacy… twirling a colored pen… tapping it against a page of scribbled notes and circuitous doodles… Memories of my first creative influences bubble up.
My father, a poet, read to me constantly when we spent time together. He was my example that during lonely times books can be your dearest friends. He taught me to appreciate the beauty in a subtly lyrical line of prose. He introduced me to art museums, expressive painters, labyrinthine used book stores, and the joy of traveling. Even now, after years of arguments and healing, I trust his editorial eye over anyone else.
At fourteen, Pat Cook (“Momma Pat” to me) took me under her wing. Pat journaled every day and wrote incredibly thoughtful and heartfelt letters to those she loved. She covered her home in paintings and murals. She made soul-bearing eye contact with every person she met, making them feel like the most important person in the world at that moment. Through her tender encouragement, I blossomed from an angst-y teenager dribble-writer to crafter of quasi-coherent thoughts.
There were innumerable artists, authors, and teachers who sparked my imagination. The brief conversations, the book recommendations, the offhanded critical comments, the smile-and-applause — the tiniest interactions shifted the path that my creative spirit would tread.
Our actions (conscious and unconscious) influence those around us — and even more acutely, the ones we love most.
As a curator and art instructor, I have been constantly surrounded by blossoming creative spirits for the past five years. And I must admit that I have not taken full responsibility for that. I have been unconsciously negative, overly critical of myself and others, and sometimes downright emotionally absent. And I must accept that in that unconsciousness, I may have squashed or deterred potentially powerful creative spirits.
This year, I am choosing to take this inherent influence by the horns and consciously guide it in a positive direction. Encouraging “baby artists” to persevere in the face of rejection. Championing underrepresented writers and artists as they jettison their creativity out into the world. Caring for my emotional and physical health so that my heart doesn’t recoil into my chest when others need it. Smiling. Dancing. And devoting myself to being an example of a fulfilling life rather than a full one.
How are you taking responsibility for your influence — and therefore your legacy — this year?
For more incredible artists who have influenced me, check out this post.