A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 282: Disturbing the Comfortable

Comfort the disturbed disturb the comfortable

Sometimes “creating dangerously” means doing things that take you to a place outside your comfort zone.

Any artist could tell you about the rut that they may be in or have been in. Artists are as prone as anyone else to falling back to the comfortable, to creating what comes easy and what is generally appreciated by the public. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with this. Pursuing and languishing in the comfortable is very human. In fact, it makes logical sense even from a strictly biological perspective. But it may be the case that artists, more than other people, get increasingly and rapidly agitated by the comfortable. To me, I believe this is something to ask yourself if you are wondering if you are a creative person: Are you happy with comfortable? Or do you find yourself, against all logic, disturbing  your own comfortable after awhile?

If you answered, “Yes… and no” to the first question and “YES!” to the second, you could have a creative spirit.

Artists play many roles in society but the one that often makes their creativity dangerous is the need/drive to shake up the comfortable. Often this need/drive comes strictly from within, the personal need/drive to shake up your own mind and soul and perspectives. When art comes of that need/drive and gets splashed up somewhere or recorded or put on film or written down or danced across a stage or spoken or screamed, it becomes the clarion call of the disturbed disturbing the comfortable. This most often is not accepted at first by society. People can label this as insane or warped or twisted. They are not altogether wrong. Art does depict the unstable, it can be warped, and it can present something twisted from the norms of reality.

But that is creativity dangerously poking holes in the status quo. That is the creative spirit haunting the nice, sterile home in the suburbs. That is art helping us all to see that there is far more to life than existing, than buying shit you don’t need, than whiling away the hours staring at screens, than forgetting that your humanity means life and action and thought and love and touch and anger and laughter and sadness and grief and delicious food and conversation and sex and contemplation and taking huge gulps of fresh air under towering trees with growing things underfoot.

It also means philosophizing like an idiot in a blog.

When artists do step out of their own comfort zone they also do another service: They comfort the disturbed. “The Scream” by Edvard Munch may seem a very disturbing piece of art on the surface, but if you are someone who has struggled with mental illness, the weight and frenzy of depression and anxiety, this painting is a balm, a comfort to your soul, a message that you are not alone in your pain.

scream-1893-16_2514

Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1893

Some may think all art should present the beautiful, the placid, the happy trees and peaceful landscapes. I’ll be the first to tell you that I need that from art. But I am also understanding more and more the need for the opposite. The human experience is so varied, so different from one soul to another, from one set of experiences to another, that art must reflect that truth. In fact, it is a major contribution art gives to humankind: A way to express what is often inexpressible. Art gives hope to humankind, no matter how messed up we are or how messed up we have made things.

This past week I decided it was time to shake things up for myself a bit. Focusing on creativity and my own approach to art this year has given me many opportunities to experiment and to become just a bit more bold in doing so. I went to a familiar form for me: water color pencils. I just made an abstract design on paper, not really knowing what it was going to be. When I finished I wasn’t all that happy with it so I grabbed a pen and drew a figure, purposely staying away from all the “rules” of figure drawing that are ingrained in my head. I came up with the figure in the image at the top of this blog. The hands were huge, the torso twisted and emaciated-looking, the proportions all wrong. As I looked at it a quote by Banksy came to mind, a quote I had put in this blog last week in my series of “Living Out Loud” quotes:

“Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.”

I scribbled part of that phrase along the edge of the figure. Then I realized that I was drawing inspiration from those words I had looked up and recorded the week before. And that I was actually working at disturbing my own sense of comfortable. Tomorrow I’ll share with you the next step in my own thought process. Art is, most definitely, a process, seemingly without end, and that process led me to develop this concept more.

Stay tuned…

Comfort the disturbed disturb the comfortable