Gut Check | How true is your art?

Gutcheck Image by Michael LagockiI have a friend who is an interior designer who paints. Most of her pieces are designs produced to draw rooms together, and while visually interesting, they don’t evoke an emotional response. That is until she fought cancer. After all of the surgeries and chemo, she picked up her brush and a collage of mixed media and began to pour it all onto canvas. The work captured the polarities of how the experience made her feel about who she was. When she showed it to her oncologist, the piece was hung in the lobby. As people began to talk about it, my friend realized something important was happening with the work and began teaching others how to use the healing power of creating art to fight their own battles with cancer.

Art can go straight from the eye to connect with something deep inside of us. And because we as people–quirky, brilliant, flawed, twitchy things that we are–are all a collection of different life experiences, art connects differently with each one of us. But one thing is for sure, like the pieces done for interior design, nothing connects unless there is something true in the piece.

Author, Anne Lamott, admonishes people to “stop writing as if your mother is looking over your shoulder.” This is true not just for writers but for visual artists and musicians. We can get into a rhythm of creating what we think we “should” create or what is easy for us rather than allowing our human selves–the deep stuff–to be revealed. And there is something about the deep stuff…our hopes, dreams, fears, pain and insecurities–all of the stuff that makes us vulnerable–that is universally true.

So do a “gut check.” Are there things keeping your work from being “true”? Get quiet enough for a moment to explore on the inside and see if you are giving your art total access to your soul. Are the barriers what others might think? Are we hiding behind walls that keep us safe?

True art always goes for the connection. And only what is real is able to connect.


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