Saturday, May 1, 2010

Repurposing Art and Life

I am in the midst of an art experiment and loving it. I was asked to find artists to show their work in our church’s small gallery between May and August. Our theme this summer (not chosen by me) is hope. I was unable to find anyone to use the gallery in May. A couple weeks ago, I decided to do it myself.

For my series on hope, I developed the following experiment:

Creative ExperIment

Google a word or concept you love (or resist?),
followed by the word "quotes."

Choose your favorite quotes and
respond with art.

(My results)

In addition to the time crunch, I'm getting used to a new level of disability. I am able to use my hands much less skillfully these days. Painting is a huge energy commitment because of the physical work involved to get materials out and put them away. In the last year or so, I scanned my art every time I painted. Sometimes I would paint something simple just for scanning and using later. Now I have a library of scans.

This feels like cheating. I'm not starting from a blank page, but it is my art. I'm not cheating, I'm collaborating with myself. I'm repurposing.

Repurposing. There is a word that was not in my father's (extensive) vocabulary. defines it as “To use or convert for use in another format or product: repurposed the book as a compact disk.” Most references to it seemed to involve home decorating or ingenious use of everyday things.

In my last post, I wrote about my need to reinvent myself. Repurposing my art has been so much fun, I wondered if I could draw lessons from it to repurpose my life.

  1. Necessity is the mother...

    I wouldn't be making these pieces of art unless I needed to do so. Having a purpose and, frankly, being pressed for time motivated me to action. When it comes to reinventing myself, I can leave things as they are while I struggle or I can make changes that will make my life easier and happier. Gently reminding myself of the pain of inaction and the rewards of change may help motivate me.

  2. Be inspired by others.

    I subscribe to Hugh MacLeod's Gaping Void cartoon series. His interplays of words and lines delight me. It was his work that inspired me to combine words, paint and electronic illustration for the series. Paying attention to how others create and re-create themselves may exhilarate my own efforts.

  3. Keep the best parts.

    The quote reminds me of a scan I have available. I open the file, choose the part of the piece that is calling to me and copy it into a new file. Textures and hues in the painting (intentional or accidental) that attract me. Parts I don't like so much, I leave behind. What chunks of my life grab me? What slices do I want to discontinue?

  4. Add something new.

    Existing material may form the backdrop of the new work, but it's only a start. To say something new, I add something new. I can add focus by illustrating an image. Similarly, there may be something I can add to my life that will bring everything around it into a whole, will become a point of convergence.

  5. Adapt as needed.

    I often make changes to the backdrop or older illustrations as I repurpose them. I adjust lines (the woman walking on the road in the Lin Yutang quotation was once dancing to a Hebrew Psalm). I duplicate and darken layers. I make changes to add meaning. Parts of my life (some of them dear to me) must be left behind. What changes can I make that will deepen my experience?

  6. Be prepared to undo.

    Sometimes, when I'm drawing, my hand spasms and the line goes wild. When I am using the computer, I can use command (or control) Z to undo my last move. Thank goodness! I am getting used to using many “undo” commands as I work. How much easier things would be if I lived my life the same way, if I forgave myself mistakes, backed up a step and moved ahead.

  7. Share it.

    The “Hope Quotes” series will hang in the North Como Presbyterian Church Gallery of Gifts in May. Pieces will be added as the series expands. In writing and visual art, sharing my work with others is an important part of my process. Often, in "real life" I withdraw into my shy place. (This happens less often as I age.) I need to remember that living out loud is one way I can contribute to the human community.

It may not be as unexpected and clever as using rain gutters to corral cables, but reinventing—and repurposing—may keep my life doable and entertaining.

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