By MELANIE TORMOS, second year student in the Creative Inquiry, Interdisciplinary Arts MFA program
This post was written for Cindy Shearer's CIA 7712: MFA Project. In these blogs, students are sharing their discoveries, reflections and learning as they enter the process of creating a body of art work and culminate their degrees.
Be proud of who you are, reads my Yogi Tea flag. I admit that I sometimes look to these tiny words for guidance; these Chinese fortune cookies of these post-modern mystic times. Illumination radiates from mundane places.
Who am I?
Female. Heterosexual. White. Slavic. Puerto Rican. Student. Artist. Teacher. Yogi. Sister. Daughter. Employee. Business Owner. Ego. Soul. The list of labels ticks on and on, and yet I don’t find an answer to my question. The list is convenient. It is inaccurate, even as it tries to constellate my identity into a definitive shape. The brittle connections between the labels feels without flesh, without warmth, making me reach for cup after cup of tea. My inquiry has become a quest to get to the deep roots of image as it relates to my body, my heart, my mind, my spirit. I have challenged myself with the task of translating the sensual creature that is my body into paint marks and color, into pattern and texture. I bridge worlds with art-making, feeling it necessary to explore why our society hungrily consumes the image, but cannot be satisfied by the skeletal, stripped-down meanings often assigned to it.
I am by way of connection, and I am by way of distinction. My process of art-making has become a way of mapping out those pathways and boundaries. While my experience of this world is porous, I still claim the power to be the gatekeeper of my own borders. Creating a piece of artwork is a way to honor the territory before it changes, and to honor the inevitability that it will, indeed, change. Each piece gives me a moment of recentering, crystallizing the liminality of being.
In meditation, I command my mind to "be still." What is really happening is that I am deciding to open to the field of consciousness, the Source—of the tea, the words, the thoughts, the stars—of everything. When the gates close, my thoughts echo off the walls. I am made aware of separation. When I paint, I go into a meditative trance. Choosing color, making marks, forming lines, shapes and patterns are tools of a ritual that bridges my inner world with the physical world. Though my mind is not absent of thought, the gates open. I step back to look, and in looking, the work becomes separate from the Source, the ritual, my inner world. It is the opening and closing of these gateways that describe my creative process.
Though I might never be able to describe who I am, or where I belong, my work can describe the borders I cross and the spaces I step between. I create a place to exist that draws upon the images, stories, myths and experiences to which I am connected. As an art-maker, I am blessed with the ability to both define and break open, to form and dissolve, and cursed with a lack of knowing which is happening when.