Life is Art

10/29/2017 10:44 am ET Updated Oct 29, 2017
Photo By Suzanne Chapuis

Each of us is a creator, an artist. Of ourselves. This I believe: Life is art.

Every decision I make, step I take, or word I whisper or shout is paint, ink, clay, or found object.

Creatives have always known this—their worth as a masterpiece. But everyone, everywhere should know this about themselves.

Figures painted on prehistoric cave walls tell us this: Life is worthy of being captured in image, be it realism or abstraction, because life as medium is the message. The first lines of Scripture are this: “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground.”

Today, Adam Bartos’ Yard Sale Photographs and Patti Smith’s Polaroids—of Mapplethorpe’s hands; Virginia Woolf’s white bed; Brancusi’s gravesite—dialogue with those ancient works in depicting our existence, our brief moment of passing this way, as bona fide art.

Life as art is grounded in Cavafy’s “Ithaca” and P!NK’s harmonious thread: “We are billons of beautiful hearts.” It is Wyeth’s Christina’s World. Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking, Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy, Ben Kingsley as Gandhi, Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Johnson—We never again look at these portrayed subjects as anything less than art personified, confirmation that our own breaths and pursuits are indeed building blocks.

I extend my bare arm and invite Duchamp to sign it, readymade.

In chaotic moments of anxiety, uncertainty, and sadness, I am wired with frenzy. I am complicated, dizzied. I am splashes of color and texture, and depth, akin to Pollock’s Convergence. Every second, I am creating layer upon layer of me.

In the bluster of anger, jealousy, negativity, and hurt, my mood swings into mysterious murk. A fog I need to work my way out of. Like I’m slogging through a Sally Mann landscape from Deep South, or the sacred murals that invoke introspection inside the Rothko Chapel. My scars are brushstrokes that I use to embolden, not weaken. Salvation is born of darkness.

My friend and artist Sister Augustine always told me that we must embrace both the “joys and sorrows.”

My optimism POPs with color and vibration, emanating waves. Just as I slide toward darkness, I can also pulsate fuchsia, orange, turquoise, cadmium yellow. I am Warhol’s Marilyn, Liz, and Jagger; I am an Eggleston scape from Los Alamos; I am Ellsworth Kelly’s Spectrum Colors Arranged by Chance.

I am graffiti, sprayed on crude walls, provoking thought. My activism—on behalf of all living beings—propels me with the energy of a Haring, a Banksy, a Basquiat.

I am Peter Max’s dove and rocket ship; I am a Stan Lee superhero. My voice matters, my talents and dreams are platforms for affecting change and leaving the world a little better than I found it. I channel Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece, Marina Abramovic’s The Artist is Present. I know without a doubt: The smile that changed the world is mine, is yours.

Just as paintings, sculptures, photography, and performances embody presence and character, I, too, am a force, in flesh and blood of my own rendering.

Science agrees with art here. Every month, our skin completely regenerates. And neuroplasticity is our brain’s ability to rebuild itself based on what we’re experiencing at any given moment. We literally are what we eat, think, and do. We literally are the sculptors of us.

Our seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, years, challenges, and triumphs are an expansive mandala, painstakingly detailed in colored sand, then swiped away, as a nod to the precious core of our existence.

This I believe: I am art. Flip me open to any page, and you will see.

Photo By John Schlimm
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