By MELANIE TORMOS, mixed media artist living in the East Bay. She is bushwacking her way through her first semester at CIIS as an MFA student in the Creative Inquiry, Interdisciplinary Arts program.
This post was written as an assignment for professor Cindy Shearer’s CIA 7091: MFA Interdisciplinary Arts Workshop. As part of a community of artists working across art perspectives, students in this course get the chance to teach each other about their art form(s), practice, lineage and influences, and are challenged to inquire into the interdisciplinary arts as well as forms new to them.
Blazing trails always appealed to me, and I never met a dirt path I didn’t want to veer from. Even now I am making a map of my creative past and slowly finding my way across new artistic and conceptual terrain. Discovering my way of being in the world means that I am bringing my journey out into the open, tracing a finger over the route I have taken and plan to take. I know what inspires me and what repels me, but I’ve never broken down how I make the choices that lead me to the art I create. I know my process is part of what differentiates me from other artists, and if I can distill that down to a powerful essence by naming it, observing it, and articulating it, I can be completely confident in my authenticity.
Who doesn’t love a treasure map, forged or not? The best part is the nudge towards adventure and discovery, not necessarily the promise of riches untold. It seems every artist, in identifying as such, makes a choice to trust the journey, to keep the map close, yet be willing to learn that the treasure is a myth. In dreams and in the richness of imagination, the artist suspects there is something precious in the legend itself, that perhaps the map and the treasure are one and the same.
On the trail I'm a loner—but as an artist, I invite the world to walk with me. Every time I present a new artwork, it is a naked meditation, a labyrinthine path into a wounded, slow-to-mend center. I bring my audience along to converse with along the way, to pass the time in the dark when the scenery all looks the same. Some stick around longer than others, even through the more desolate places. Some are drawn to the scenic beauty and take leave when the road becomes tough to tread. Either way, I welcome everyone, as equals, to see the world as I do and to talk as if there is no destination.
Part of finding my way across vast creative territory is balancing what I know with what I am willing to learn. I have made a snake out of paper scales, but what about a tree out of trash? I know the 30” x 40” canvas well, but how well can I know a wall-sized piece of cardboard with my brush and paint? Curiosity out on the trek finds caves, birds’ nests and shortcuts—and the occasional rattlesnake nest. But there is exhilaration in danger and narrow escapes, and stories to be told about it afterwards. Likewise, I will never know how far into the sublime my vision might take me until I risk trying to manifest the mystical, the nebulous—the shadow. In the company of bright souls, I am grounded enough to know when to rest, when to cross boundaries, when to follow the stars and when to follow my gut.
And so I run my course. Out to sea, like the river? Or up to the moon, like a mountain? I put one foot down, and the other foot in front of it. And repeat, and repeat, and repeat.