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Journals from American University Center of Provence

2009-11-19 On Seeing Things and Being An Artist

I might have found what it means for me to be an artist. It happened in the grand meadows of Edinburgh, Scotland. I was walking absurdly slowly, ambling along, with my friend Mindi. It was vacation and we had absolutely and wonderfully nothing to do. She is an artist and I am an artist, so, naturally, we were talking about art. In turn we asked each other how it is that we go about making art, whether we have the idea first or the object first. We talked about my fear of decorative art and her aspirations to work as a curator. We considered how tightly our lives are wrapped around our identity as artists. We sat for awhile, got cold, walked a little more, and took a cherry-tree lined path. There, littered on the ground, were the most magnificent leaves. I couldnt stop cooing over how beautiful they were; the red that looked so red until you picked it up and realized it was pink; the intensity of the yellow that happened when the sun shined through at that perfect angle; the crisp shadows cast by the afternoon light. In that moment I realized being an artist has trained me to see things. It allows me and encourages me to be over-interested in the scope of my eyes. Being an artist justifies my childlike tendencies to find complete rapture and delight with the textures and shapes and reflections and shadows of things. The other part of who I am as an artist is an over-excitement to make known what I discover. I realize these discoveries may not be grand and new, but I still insist that one take notice. Have you seen the way that one leaf tumbles when people walk by? Did you notice the faint shadow under that leaf when the sky was overcast? Did you realize how long it will be before you will see a green leaf on a tree again? Walking slowly in that colorful park I found that the time it takes to really discover an amazing and intricate object, is also the time it takes to become intoxicated with the present moment. I cannot yet say exactly why this discovery is so important, but I do know that there is greatness in small things, complexity in simple things, and that leaves in autumn can somehow create epiphany-like sentiments. My identity as an artist thrives when my eyes are open. Joy Nelson 3, November 2009

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