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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Nervous artist

I am a nervous artist. Not nervous as in anxious and full of movement and fidgiting, but more like the nervousness that molds that dreaded wrinkle in between my eyes on my brow, or the nervousness that seeps into my smile when someone looks at my art, or more like the nervousness that makes food settle wrong in my stomach.

I am always nervous. And I wonder if other artists are as well. I never wonder if my art or writing is beautiful or pleasing or thought provoking, as I learned a while ago to enjoy the making of them and then set them free in the world on their to make it or not on their own. No I am nervous that when I do expose my work I will be judged solely on the basis of the material that I have used to create the piece. Wether it is a polar bear claw and whale baleen or maybe it's using an old oral story as a basis for a short story or a drawing.....I still brace myself for angry words that could come.

I think part of it is that there are no 'Save the Eskimo' foundations, no rich non-profits pleading for donations so that we could continue subsistence hunting, no celebrities on tv commercials speaking in calm voices and educating the world on how beautiful our skin parkas are. No shows focusing on a group of activists going to crazy extremes to protect our duck hunting rights. The modern world seems to advocate only human dominance and separation from nature, and seem to try to build a connection between intelligence and humanity with everything that is opposite of our lives on the North Slope. Even kids these days associate eating caribou, and whale and berries as 'poor' people food, when it's healthier and far better for you than store bought food. Because in the media gathering and handling your own food is not what rich and educated people do....

And with the arrival of the internet I find myself more and more nervous as my artwork is exposed to the millions and millions of opinions out there. The funny part is that I haven't gotten back very much negative feedback on my materials. Most don't believe that the polar bear claw is a polar bear claw, or that it's casted or faux. Most cannot believe that a culture such as mine still exists in the U.S. But I have found that I love telling people about my world, and it helps me find my own view and works to sharpen my opinions.

But I wonder what would it be like if I didn't have to constantly check up on CITES regulations or state laws of exporting my work (though I advocate the existence of these checks and balances it is often obvious to me that they were only created to punish people and not to actually regulate or educate). I wonder what it would be like to live without the nervousness. But when I think of those materials being gone from my life the nervousness is replaced with panic.

There was a show we watched a few episodes of that I enjoyed greatly, it is called 'The Wild Within' and plays on the Travel channel. It delighted me to see such a show, centered around hunting and gathering your own food. I think what I liked the most was when the host would take time to express how he felt about the food he gathered, in a frank and honest way. And it makes me so happy to see a show where people can see the emotions and thoughts that go along with the harvesting....most shows bypass that stuff and focus on the act itself, ignoring the human element and connection.

rambling some pics....

This raven is part of a group...or 'Unkindness'...of ravens that stop by our house every single day to see if there are any meat scraps for them. They are smart buggers and sometimes if they haven't found anything to eat they will sit and pick on the dogs for fun. The smarter dogs ignore them. They make a certain distinct clicking noise when they see me or my hubby, and I think they have actually named us, which could be bad or good.
Here is the arctic rabbit that lives behind our house. He is very Ninja in his winter coat. It's surprising that he is around since we know for a fact that a weasel lives nearby....the weasels eat the rabbits ...but they first do a seductive wiggly dance to confuse them as they get closer and closer....
A set of Dall sheep horns my husband found on the side of a mountain. He said it looked like a pack of wolves had killed a sheep and left these great majestic horns behind. I love the texture....we playfully tapped the horns together and they made a surprisingly loud echoing crack that rang through our tiny house. I would love to hear it as they battle for their fair maidens in the mountains......

1 comment:

  1. The thoughts on food got me thinking.
    When I was a kid we often went to the ranch where my mom grew up. My mom and my aunt would point out edible plants and flowers and my cousin and I would, of course, feast. They encouraged us, after pointing out what things were poison and how something that would give us a belly ache would taste, to experiment. We ate tiny wild carrots and strawberries that had found there way in the sand from nearby farms. We ate the tart growths from under oak leaves (I later learned that these are actually insect larvae.) We chewwed fragrant and strong flavored wild leaves. It was not extraordinary at the time. It was the kind of people we were.
    But of course, kids grow up. Like you said, food becomes us. We are what we eat. Or we express who we are in what we eat. So when I was a young girl and stooped to pluck a fragrant stem in the school yard to chew and got wierd looks, I stopped. The message was clear. That is not what WE do.
    So then it was that only on my rare sojourns to my cousin's place would I chance things near my feet. What I ate as a girl became stories that shocked and delighted my friends with it's.. rusticness.
    Then my brother decided he wanted to take up fishing. When my brother decides to take something up, it means that I am taking it up too. Finally, after a lot of tries, I caught a fish. We took it home. I was squeamish. What we eat becomes us, and what we don't eat repels us.
    And my mom challenged, "Are you going to eat that?" That is, are you our kind of people, or have you become someone else?
    So here I am, watching my brother clean this fish I'm beginning to wish I'd thrown back, in my driveway in the suburbs of the American South. I am college educated. I am a gamer. I am a computer nerd. I am not "outdoorsy". I am over a decade away from the barefoot little girl who rooted for carrots and climbed trees to get at mustang grapes. And now I have to choose. Am I the kind of person who eats a fish they caught? Am I the daughter of a woman whose parents bore the scars of the great depression? Am I the daughter of a first generation Mexican who went to a segregated school? Or have I become someone else.
    Do I eat fish?
    I eat fish.
    So for me, what I eat and what I don't eat has in a way become either an acceptance or a rejection of who I am. I don't know if it's like this for everyone, but I think that it's something you could identify with.