Michaeline: DIY Art

A baby looking into the mirror, much like a famous picture of Alice kneeling on the mantlepiece looking into Wonderland.

Everyone is an artist of some kind. Art is definitely something you should try at home, kids! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

All of us blogging here are DIY artists. We write, therefore we are. I suspect a great many of our readers also recognize themselves as creators. Last week, I talked a little bit about how all of us are creating art in our daily lives – whether it be expanding bread and water into herbal iced tea and pretty crackers with cheese and cucumber slices, or taking sackcloth and sandals up a notch to a sundress with really cute sandals. Or maybe you are taking some basic fictional elements, adding a few nuggets from the news or history, and coming up with your very own, do-it-yourself story, specially tailored to fit your tastes.

Jeanne in the comments last week linked to a very interesting piece from The Atlantic about bucket list art exhibits.


The biggest thing that struck me after reading the article was how so many of these experiences sound like something we could re-create ourselves, should we wish to go through the time and effort. The article talks about an art installation where Rirkrit Tiravanija made Thai curry at a Chelsea gallery . . . and the Museum of Modern Art. (From the MoMA blog.) https://www.moma.org/explore/inside_out/2012/02/03/rirkrit-tiravanija-cooking-up-an-art-experience/ I once missed the chance to watch a man make curry for Lois McMaster Bujold. This man does this in different venues, and while I don’t think he’d call it art, it sounds like it could be.

Yayoi Kusama’s mirrors remind me of childhood dressing rooms with three mirrors providing a glimpse into infinity. An infinity of grey carpet and slightly soiled beige walls, but there I was, right in the middle, multiplied over and over again. It wasn’t as beautiful as Kusama’s work, but it left a vivid memory.

A woodcut from 1857 showing Tanabata willows covered with wishing strips and summer decorations. A light wind is blowing and making them flutter above the rooftops.

The wishing trees of Tanabata are a very old tradition in Japan, and as you can see, they make striking art that also is suitable for other artists to recreate. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Yoko Ono’s Wish Trees are very much like the Tanabata wishing trees of the summer season in Japan. The difference is that people don’t fold up their papers like they might for Ono’s Wish Tree, but write their wish on a piece of thick paper, and hang it up on the bamboo or willow branch for the world to see. I’ve done this many times, and it’s so interesting to see the elementary scrawl of school children wishing for games and toys, or sometimes good grades and once in a while, something even more poignant. Peace for the soul of a family dog, or health for a sick friend. Adults also leave messages that range from “truths” universally acknowledged (a boyfriend, a good summer bonus) to the strangely specific.

Maybe it’s the company that we keep in these events that determines if something is just a thing we do, or if it is an art event that inspires visitors and deeper thinking. It’s not a big deal if your mirrors just reflect Mom and the lady who measures for bra sizes. But if we multiplied it by all the dozens of women who go through the room each week, maybe there’s a shared thread of commonality that would make an interesting art exhibit to be displayed and explained to others.

One other thing the article mentioned is Instagram. Kusama’s art was made for herself, but others turn it into an opportunity for taking pictures and posting them on the internet. We take pictures of our creations and share them on various social platforms, and get an audience, who can interpret our pictures in a variety of ways. Anyone can create art with an audience these days, it seems.

Is there a difference between taking a selfie in a gorgeous artificial landscape (like Kusama’s mirrors), and taking a selfie in a gorgeous natural landscape? Is the creator any closer or further from universal human truths? Does that act of creation – taking a selfie – deepen the experience, or make it more shallow? A selfie shared can be tweeted across the universe, and I suspect it’s not so much about manmade or natural, because to some extent, a selfie tweet is mostly made by humans. It’s about how it resonates with other people’s souls.

Our writing, too, will find one measure of success depending on how it makes people react. Do they nod their head in agreement, or start a little argument in their head with the writer – one that they want to continue? Or do they view the first paragraphs as a completely alien experience? Do they want that exoticism? Or do they decide they don’t want to share our world?

The nice thing about our digital age today is that if money is not the point, we’ve got several platforms where we can share our work. We can create, and we can touch a soul, and I don’t know if it really matters if we touch 100 souls in a niche of their own or a million across the world. The most important soul to consider is the author’s own. Anything else is marketing and luck.

2 thoughts on “Michaeline: DIY Art

  1. Glad this struck a chord and you make a wise point: when creating, the most important soul to consider is your own.

    • I think I might have a little Kusama Yayoi addiction now. She showed up in my YouTube feed, and my writing buddy also knows of her. Very interesting woman, very compelling art. She had an exhibit in Tokyo from February until May, I think; this year, I was in Tokyo in January to see off my first kid, and I’ll be there again in a couple of weeks to explore colleges with my second kid, so my trips sort of sandwiched that opportunity. Oh well, can’t go to what you don’t know about.

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