I believe with all that I am that the need to create is woven into humanity’s DNA. We are born with a drive to express ourselves in an effort to leave our mark, however small, on this planet. Life has its way of reinforcing my belief in the need to create.
Today, I was cruising on my bike, not intending to write, when I kept seeing graffiti juxtaposed on top of sanctioned public art. I can’t be certain, though, that the graffiti wasn’t sanctioned. It appeared to my uninformed viewing that there was little difference in the styles between the art and the graffiti. The quality of the work; however, told a different story.
All creative acts begin with blankness. Whether the blankness exists on a canvas or on a notebook paper or in the air, there’s space to fill and the creative force that drives us all must fill that space. In the case of the graffiti art, it was clear that some spaces were filled with images done with time and care, while others were done in a hurry, almost as though the artist wanted to avoid detection and capture. Also, one that appeared sanctioned as public art was labeled, “Reality through Design.” To me, this was a person who controlled her canvas: She had the resources and privilege to paint a well thought out butterfly and then provide a caption that shared a positive message. It seemed like the artist was saying, “I create my own destiny with purpose and meaning.”
However, not even twenty (20) feet away, the word, “Fear” was scrawled on the sidewalk. It didn’t appear to be a space filled with purposeful design; rather, the blank space was one of an illicit opportunity. There was little thought; the message conveyed, to me, exactly what the artist felt while he was guiding the spray can. In my mind’s eye, I saw him painting while continuously looking over his shoulders for a sign that anyone was coming. Though he was creating outside the law, his need to fill the blank space would be met at whatever cost was necessary.
Still other blank spaces were mixtures of the sanctioned and the illicit. The illicit images weren’t filling blank spaces; rather, they were made acknowledging the privilege, yet not recognizing the space as covered with anything that resembled legitimate expression. The juxtaposition was, to me, an indication that emotions like anger and fear are as vital within the creative process as inspiration and talent. As a matter of fact, of all the aspects of art, I think talent is the most overvalued. What’s most important in my view to the creative process is the recognition that we are alive and have as much a right to participate in the extension of humanity as anyone else.
I can’t help but think that suppressing the need to create and express leads, in some way, to depression and anxiety taking hold. When anyone believes that he or she is not as talented or as pretty or as strong as anyone else, he or she the opens the door to angst. This angst almost never goes away on its own. Instead, fills the empty space left within our souls when we ignore and deny our need to create and express. Instead of designing our own reality, our reality is designed for us by angst and despair and the greatest consumer of a soul: Fear.
I don’t advocate illegal graffiti. I just think it reinforces my belief that we all have this drive inside of us to participate in this life through creation. Whether we choose to acknowledge this drive or not, I believe it’s there waiting to be tapped so that we can say to what can be a lonely world, “I am here. I am alive. And I matter.”