There she was standing in front of the orchestra. Barely 14 years old, I think, a candle in her hand. The flame was trembling, due to her shaking hands. It was almost imperceptible, as the lights in the cathedral had been turned off. But I had bought a ticket for a front row seat and was sitting right in front of her.
Her face was tense with nerves, but then she started singing and a light, ethereal voice filled the church. I didn’t have to turn around to know that everyone behind me would be looking at her in awe. And all I could think was: Thank heavens I’m a sculptor.
I’ve never been one for the stage. When taking piano classes at the local music school, the thing I dreaded the most was the annual presentation. Having to play in a music hall filled with strangers is what I consider a cruel form of torture. But! There was a silver lining. The instrument we were going to use was a grand piano.
When my name was announced, I don’t think the audience ever saw more than a hint of my shoe as I summersaulted behind this massive bastion. There, hidden behind its bulky, black body I felt brave enough to play the song I had been practicing for this event (my own composition). As soon as I hit the final key though, I jump-rolled through out of the hall again, leaving some confused applause in my wake. Nailed it.
Art inspires us to confront ourselves. In the case of performance art the most direct confrontation is with our fears. But art also allows us to explore other parts within ourselves. Feelings that are universal, but we often like to keep hidden.
Until The Fat Lady Sings
This week, while working on my butterfly-project, I was thinking about art and inspiration. When listening to interviews, it’s one of the first questions an artist is given: “What or who influenced your style?” Often the answer involves one or more famous artist from the past. To me this is a great way to brush up on my non-existent art history knowledge. It’s also a nice way to fill your head with new art.
Personally though, I enjoy answers that are less common. Someone who says that their work is inspired by cheesy romance novels, for instance. Perhaps it’s because I can relate to that. I don’t really have an artist that influences me. It’s not that I don’t admire other people’s work. Quite the contrary. Some artists have a fantastic skillset that I can only hope to match at some point in the future. But… The person doesn’t inspire me. For a simple reason:
I’m really bad with names. Dates too. Which on more than one occasion proved quite awkward when I had to renew my driver’s license.
For me, what inspires me, is a story I’ve heard. A single phrase. A melody. A dream, or nightmare. A scene in a show or movie. It could even be a few single frames. Whatever it is, they strike a chord within me, and I become obsessed it. This obsession doesn’t stop until the sculpture that comes from it is finished. Only then am I able to be haunted by a new muse.
I once heard a story of one of my favorite musicians, whose name I just googled – ha! Back when he was the keyboardist of the band Dream Theater, the other musicians in the band were worried about him. Kevin Moore had just been through a difficult break-up and was now showing a slightly unhealthy liking to one particular page of a clothing magazine. Wherever he went, that page showing a model wearing Dr. Martens shoes and a space-dye vest went with him. Deciding that obsessing over a model was perhaps not the healthiest way to deal with heartbreak, Kevin’s friends planned to organize an intervention. But before they had a chance to set-up this meeting, the keyboardist called them to listen to a new song he’d been working on those past weeks. It’s called Space-Dye Vest. And it’s one heck of a soul searcher.
I believe that part of what makes a good artist great, is the willingness to let inspiration take them wherever they need to, despite their own fears and barriers. Which is why Kevin Moore made a fantastic song, and the 14-year old girl at the start of that blog was able to captivate her audience with her voice. Their naked honesty, combined with the technical skill needed to be able to communicate, made it possible to reach the heart of their audience. Art, after all, is a dialogue of the soul.
What is your inspiration?