I have this weird idea in my head that art is a luxury. That it can only be created when everyone I love has been taken care of and I can finally sit down, put my feet up and relax. I'm a Cancer, so I'm big-hearted, fiercely loyal, and you could say I'm a masochist when it comes to taking care of others. The unspoken truth about caregiving is that most people, if given the chance, will keep piling their needs on your back until you show that you're struggling with the weight. And the truth about me is that I am neurotically attached to proving my emotional strength.
So many people are looking for a savior to cast their burdens on. I believe that we can and should learn to carry our own weight. We can allow others to take the emotional burden for awhile, but we should never ask or expect others to carry us for very long because leaning on others is like using a crutch and allows us to continue living in fear and helplessness. So, while I deeply wish to take care of my loved ones and I am exceedingly generous with my time and energy, if the receiver isn't taking my advice or they continually need me over a long period of time, I have to step back and set boundaries. I no longer wish to save anyone. And that's kind of new for me.
Anyway….. I found myself, yet again, prioritizing a lot of other peoples’ problems instead of creating art while the art began to build within me with no medium for expression. I’ve tried to take photos here and there. I’ve done amazing little writing prompts that have gotten me by in moments (thanks to Isabel Abbott and her amazing Unapologetic Writing course where I learned how to write a story in three words - weird brains thrive). But I have a constant stream of inspiration and my emotions become overwhelming if I don't create. I knew that it would all come spilling out soon. I can never hold it in for very long.
It started with a text from my friend, Maisha on the day of the Leo full moon. Maisha and I made a plan to cast a spell for a custody battle (one of many burdens that is not my own but I have been carrying). She’s a Leo and I can’t even tell you how amazing it is to have a Leo friend, because they take care of their people like no other (like a Cancer, but with boundaries). We sat on the couch brainstorming ways to soften and sweeten ex wives and judges and soon we were listening to the Hamilton soundtrack in the kitchen, candles lit, mashing bananas and folding brown sugar into butter. Softening and sweetening, and blessing food with our hands.
In the days that followed, visions of buttered banana bread fresh from the oven followed me. I became softer and sweeter. And I could not stop thinking about food. I had an inspiring conversation with my friend, (amazing food photographer) Chanelle, about how childhood experiences with food have an impact on the way we cook and eat as adults. I had dreams of flavors combining in beautiful ways.
Memories began to unearth themselves. Most of my food memories are about the way food was used as a punishment, winters only eating potatoes, breaking open locked cabinets and handing out sweets to hungry siblings, but the memories coming back to me were the good ones, where food was a joy and the kitchen was a canvas. My mother teaching me to knead dough. Making sauerkraut and pickles and jars of peaches. Holiday feasts with cousins running in and out of the kitchen. Drinking olive juice in tea cups with my favorite cousin with our pinkies up. Foraged herbs and little green apples from the side of the road. The fish we caught, pan fried with salted skin. The garden - hours toiled away to bring forth fragrant pink heirloom tomatoes, spicy radishes, and blackberries all summer long. Miniature pies I made from wild strawberries the size of a raisin that grew in the field behind our house.
And because I was spending my days working on this court case and stressing about other people instead of creating art, I forgot to eat for at least several days. I lost weight without noticing. One day I looked in the mirror and started to worry about myself, wasting away in the service of everyone else and clearly not taking care of me. So, I hopped in the car and spent an unholy amount of money on groceries and decided to delve into my weird artist brain and start cooking from the heart, the way my mother taught me.
There is a complete freedom that I allow myself in cooking. It’s the one art form where I seem to have no inner critic to hold me back. I am a complete maniac with frantic energy and flour falling down my shirt and my hair all wild and an inability to stop until every dish is dirty. Cooking makes me forget that I am a photographer, forget that I am a writer, and forget that I am anything at all. It takes me to a space of complete immersion in the creative process and I don’t come up for air until that blissful moment when spoon meets tongue and I know I’ve created something transcendent.
I am no longer willing to tell myself that I need a singular focus, or a direction, because I am an artist and not a brand.
Branding stifles my creativity. And so, I'm giving myself a blank canvas and I'm doing an anti-branding experiment. What can I create if I stop trying to fit all of my art into one medium and instead immerse myself in the messy process and just create?