I once heard a man say that he had tried to “find himself”, but despite great effort he had had found the task daunting. In an epiphany, he realized that he had been searching for a stationary being, but he saw now that his “self” was dynamic, ever changing. He was the sum of each decision that he had made to that point.
We invent ourselves by the choices we make.
I am in a period of intense personal growth, sparked by the many decisions of my life, and most recently, a decision to devote myself to developing my art. I have long loved the Tlingit art that surrounded me growing up in Sitka, Alaska, felt pulled to it, but turned away from it’s call.
A good friend challenged me with a commission for a bentwood box, a style of box important to the Tlingit for thousands of years, and a project that I longed to try, but shied away from. I turned my focus to this difficult task, made more difficult by the fact that I have no master to apprentice to, only able to learn from pictures and the stern taskmaster of trial and error. after hundreds of hours and 7 failed attempts I had created a beautiful box; a length of red cedar with three kerfs cut, steamed, bent and joined, with a carefully fitted top and bottom.
Creating this box unlocked a deep desire to create art, and my wonderful wife gave me support when I told her that I wanted to pursue my art full-time. Yolande Fejes, co-owner of the Alaska House looked at my box, and for the first time, I received informed criticism on this project. To me, this input is highly valued. She suggested that I apply my art to pendants. I have completed 4 pendants to date, and they have been extremely well received. I’ve shared my work on social media, and have been contacted by the owner of another art gallery…things are moving fast.
This newly created art is receiving accolades, and must the face that I am now, officially, an artist, as opposed to “someone who likes to draw, paint and carve”. I appreciate the approval, but I am actually humbled, because the more I accomplish, the more I learn, the more I write, the more I spiritually and intellectually I grow…my perspective changes, and from a slightly higher vista I have a new appreciation for the masters who proceeded me. Words from fine authors, the Whale House carvings by Kadjisdu.áxch, the spirit and strength of my father. I see higher levels to achieve, an new appreciation of what is good and fine.
The painting I’m doing is so demanding, so exacting, that it consumes me while I’m engaged in it, and it turns out that this is a form of meditation for me, holding me in the moment so thoroughly that I am able to relax my frenzied mind, and in it’s place I find a form of spiritual tranquility.
I am so encouraged by the response my first attempts at art in this period of my life have received, and by the fact that it touches certain people. I’m amazed at what my mind, eyes and hands are able to create, but I know that I am at least 10 years from any level of mastery, and that I will continue to grow as long as I am alive. I hope to forever remain a moving target, inventing myself one moment at a time, decision by decision, act by act.