By MICHELLE CHAMPLIN, student in the Creative Inquiry, Interdisciplinary Arts MFA 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.
I applied to the Creative Inquiry, Interdisciplinary Arts program because I wanted to create art for a living. Since graduating with a BA in English with a studio art minor in 2004, my work experience has mostly consisted of clerical, office management, and administrative support—basically picking up tasks that nobody else wanted to do. I was sick of ordering supplies, cleaning up after people, and wishing it were Saturday every day of the week. Most of all, I was tired of working for someone else. I was ready to create my own life—something with meaning. I wanted to start something that would allow me to give what I have to offer—to help people directly through creativity and share my expressions with the world.
When I entered CIIS, I thought I would simply utilize the time and resources available to create a career for myself. What I’m realizing, however, is that this process involves learning about myself and art on a much deeper level than I anticipated. I thought I knew myself as an artist and, though I did on some level, I am finding that I am just now forming my artistic identity. I’m learning what is at the core of my work and what I am truly expressing through my work. I’m finding this entails digging deep and looking at what is at my core as a human being. Though it’s clear to me that I am constructing my artistic identity, it is a notion that I am still defining for myself.
Though I am currently concentrating on my visual art, I also write, create music, and have worked with film. When I began this program, I didn’t want to define myself as a specific type of artist because I didn’t want to feel boxed in. I felt defining myself as just a “visual artist” meant that people would see me as that and nothing else. I’m now finding that it is easier for me to call myself a visual artist because I truly am one. Placing that label on myself does not make me any less of a writer and it doesn’t mean I can’t create music or film. It just means that I am committing to the fact that I am a visual artist. As I write this, I’m actually wondering whether my resistance to “label” myself has partially stemmed from a fear of failure. Committing to a path—choosing one of my interests and focusing on it enough to turn it into a career—scared me. It still scares me, but I’m walking through the fear.
For me, committing involves certain aspects of this program. It means reflecting on who or what influences my work, talking about the skills I have acquired in doing this work, looking at the symbols in my art and reflecting on how they relate to my life experiences. It also involves the understanding that I can make my experience—my environment, my artist’s nest—anything I want it to be. I have the ability to create the most profound work—my life.
This feels like the beginning of something big and I'm grateful because the artists and educators involved in this program are such creative, mindful, and supportive individuals. I feel we all share a profound sense of meaning in the work we are doing together. I've wanted to start on this path for so long and I'm excited to see what happens next.
I’ve included an image of one of my most recent pieces, “Happiness.” It will be included in the upcoming CIIS student show titled, “What is Uniquely Human.” For me, the most profound aspect of this piece comes from my personal story around it. It was inspired by my love for my partner, her passionate creative energy, and her beautiful soul. This is one example of what I’ve found at the core of my work and is therefore, a piece of my artistic identity.