At a certain point during my residency at the Art Farm, I thought, “This place is like a playground for adults.” There was a ladder to climb into the sky and a unicorn swing to fly through a floating barn, which was basically a jungle gym itself. I often perched on a swing in Lily’s studio while drinking wine and chatting with the girls and we made little forts of our studios — we claimed the space as our own, made room to explore art and get messy. We tromped through fields to discover hidden sculptures, dove into lakes, raced down waterslides in the moonlight, hiked through prairies and rested on rooftops to take in the view and soak in the stars.
Now that I’m back at home, I’ve been focused on how to not forget that feeling of the Art Farm — the sense that a day can stretch, that hours last for days, that a day can be a month. I woke up knowing that spending as many hours as possible in my studio was my top priority — but also understanding that equally important was chatting over coffee with Aimee, having long car ride philosophy sessions with Lily, jogging with Raluca and soaking up the sun and water with Carmella.
“To create art drawn from within is to create a world of our own and also to uncover an all-but-forgotten original, primal self,” Peter London writes in “No More Secondhand Art.”
He talks about how children explore, how fairy tales are part of everyday life for young minds. Of this original self, he explains: “Its waking and sleeping life was full of adventurous experiments and confrontations with unknown territory. It wept freely, laughed openly and felt itself grow daily physically, intellectually, socially and spiritually . . . The original self seems to also have been rather artistic; it loved to make things, intricate, finely made things, privately meaningful things. There seemed to be an easy and graceful way of playing, fantasizing, creating stories and things, sometimes with others, often alone.”
London said that art is a means to reconnecting with this original self. I remember when Bob Mosier became my art teacher in high school and started my small class on a journey of becoming actual artists. He told us that we had to be in touch with childhood wonder — and we were only a few years older than being kids then. Now, in my 30s, I feel like so much time has been spent in the drudgery of work, the social obligations, the day-to-day maintenance — and that inner child has been ignored more than she should have been.
I think artists need to make time to play, to explore and to wander. It’s the only way to feed our image bank, to stimulate new ideas and to let that inner creative child live. The question is — how do we encourage playtime in a world that seems to discourage it?