I’ve written a few times about my experience as an art major in college. It only lasted my freshman year, and then I switched to a (highly useful) English degree after that. After changing my major, I often wandered the halls of the art building feeling sad and lost inside. I felt like a starving person with no money standing outside the Bellagio buffet.
Still, I felt like I made the right decision, just like when I dumped my theater scholarships to study art and still to this day feel a twinge of sadness when I hear showtunes.
Why did I leave art?
Lots of reasons, all of which I hope to explore here later because I feel they’re valuable, but one of the biggest reasons is that I felt like art “abandoned” me somehow. Art was like a lifelong friend who turned into a jerk once we got to college. Instead of finding my artistic voice and feeling free and creative, we debated the definition of art and whether beauty has value. The art department praised the new, edgy, shocking, and obscene while scoffing at “decorative objects”, or “pretty” art. Crucifixes in jars of urine were “art”, but a simple drawing with no other purpose than to be pleasing was not. “Hard” art was “good”, while “soft” art was not. Real art was either be sold for thousands or millions of dollars, or not sold at all. Art was for people with money and doctoral degrees, or those who were willing to starve for it.
While I took notes and felt my spirit shrinking, I could only think “Man Art, you used to be cool.”
Don’t get me wrong, I had some good times as an art major. I met some great people and had my moment of zen moments perched on a drawing horse while sketching wads of crumpled paper, but I came into the art program wanting to be an artist, and I left it wanting nothing to do with the art world. The art world was a crooked, elitist place and I wanted nothing to do with it.
Luckily, I’ve come to my senses.
I barely made any art in college. I made art for assignments, but that was about it even though I haunted the local art galleries and put all kinds of good ideas on the back burner until I felt like being an artist again. Last spring, I started painting for fun again and in the fall, Sam suggested that I try selling art. I started learning about the real world rather than the art world, and I realized that it’s not such a scary place after all; at least it doesn’t have to be. I learned about Etsy and met all kinds of artists who are real people and proud of it. (I’m not saying that edgy, post-modern artists aren’t real, it’s just the image that’s not real.)
Most of all, I realized that owning and enjoying art isn’t limited to rich collectors or people with alphabets behind their names. Art can be affordable, approachable, and most of all: fun. It doesn’t have to make a huge statement or be shocking (though it certainly can). Sometimes, art can just be pretty. It can just make someone happy when she looks at it. It belongs in homes, offices, on desks, in wallets, in our jewelry boxes, on our notebook covers, everywhere! Anyone can make it, and anyone can enjoy it. It can say anything or nothing.
Art is for everyone, and that’s one of the messages I hope to send with my own art. I don’t mean that my art is for everyone, because not everyone will like it and that’s fine. I want my art to be approachable, thoughtful, beautiful, and fun. I want it to be accessible and positive. Not everyone has room or money for large art, so I’ve started making small art as well, and I have plans to expand my shop and share my art with as many people as possible.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject. What do you think about the art world, or what art “is”?
Every year around this time, everyone with roots in Utah will notice that his or her Facebook page is full of photos of people covered in colored dust and having a great time.
Though crowds, noise, and dancing aren’t usually my thing, this year I decided to go to the Festival of Colors, a Hindu festival celebrated
in the spring. Here we are at the Krishna Temple in Spanish Fork, Utah:
I went with some friends who are seasoned festival attendees. That was the first time I’d actually been to that temple, and it was beautiful, especially speckled with bright colors. The temple was surrounded with peacocks and lamas and these little yak-like things called zebos. As soon as I stepped in the gates, somebody pelted me with bright yellow cornstarch. I bought three bags of neon-bright powder in hot pink, green, and a very vibrant purple. People showered us with their colors at us and we returned the favor. I got very colorful very quickly.
I loved going on top of the temple and watching the crowd from above. Several Kirtan bands performed and the whole crowd rippled and pulsed while bright clouds rose up. I love Kirtan, but I’d never heard it live. Granted, this was spruced up a little-much more danceable than traditional Kirtan.
I’ve never been comfortable dancing in public, or at all, but I did my signature “can’t dance” dance and had a great time. People walked by and hugged me or sprinkled color over my hair. Everyone was friends with everyone.
The highlight of the festival is the “throwing”, when the entire crowd throws their colors into the air at once, which creates this beautiful, massive rainbow cloud that blocked out the sun for about thirty seconds and smells amazing. I got all kinds of ideas for colorful paintings.
I didn’t see myself until the end, but I looked pretty funny. Somehow my friends managed to stay colorful-as in, you could actually see the different colors- while I was so colorful that I’d turned completely brown! I was smiling the whole time, so the color settled into the creases and contours of my face, so I came out looking like an old lady who’d rolled in the mud.
I’m sure I’ll be cleaning purple cornstarch out of my ears for weeks, but I haven’t had so much fun in a long time. I’m going every year. If you live anywhere near Utah and can make it to the festival, I highly urge you to go. I can’t think of a more beautiful way to welcome spring.
Taking pictures was kind of hard, but I managed to glean a few decent ones from the dozens of lousy ones I got. My camera cord is permanently pink now.
For a much better idea of the festival, go to the Krishna Temple site and watch the video here.
The thing I loved most about the festival was the joy. I could feel it in the air; it was a very happy place. I didn’t see any grumpy people. All kinds of people were there, from babies to the elderly. A little girl asked me for a hug so she could get color all over me. I didn’t even mind getting smashed into people during the throwing, because everyone felt like my friend. I don’t recall ever feeling like that toward strangers, but I think that’s what will keep my going back every year.
That and the colors. Oh, the colors.