It’s common for artists to work an insane amount of hours on their work. If you’re an artist you know what being an artist means, WORK, all the time. Even when you’re not working, you’re working. A walk in the park with friends is research; going to the movies could potentially flood your mind with ideas for a new work. There is never rest for an artist.
I sometimes wish that I was one of these people that could simply go out with my friends for a nice quiet night and enjoy a meal with them at dinner. Instead I am always thinking about making something, a plate of food can potentially lend a color palette to new collage, a remark about a book that a friend is reading, opens up doorways into new ideas that were not there before. The potential for creating new work is everywhere for me. I wish I could relax sometimes and just play a game of ultimate Frisbee with my friends, or be one of those people who is looking forward to the weekend. My schedule as an artist never seems to stop; I am always in a state of making something.
If I have friends over for dinner, I have them over to cook for them, and the process of preparing food, is a creative process that often lends itself to my practice as an artist. Food it seems has a particular way of opening the mind up, it utilizes all of our senses. It’s a shame in our rushed world now; people have lost the fine art of cooking for people.
The subtlety of flavor at mealtime have been lost, dinner now is frequently consumed in front of the television, or even sadder food is stuffed into our mouth during a drive, we have lost touch with this most precious of human rituals. Microwaves have replaced the stove top that allows for the aroma of food to fill the home; instead food comes frozen now in pre-package containers, there is no mess in the preparation of a meal. One of the joys of creating a meal is the joy of cleaning the pots and pans, something I am guilty of neglecting.
Art is a lot like cooking, it requires a process of making that is much like cooking, we have ingredients for both, a manner in which preparing them, a way to put them together, and we even as artist share our recipes with other artists. When we cook we should pay attention to how certain flavors work with one another. I think back to my father’s boyfriend of 15 years and his recipe for a tomato sauce, which required 3 days of cooking before the sauce was ready to eat. When I was a kid my brother and sister and I would look forward to this sauce, which we only had a chance to eat in the summer when we visited my father in Las Vegas. The sauce I can still taste it on my tongue now, it was loaded with garlic, oregano, basil, and thyme, the thing that really gave it a punch however, was coffee grounds. What is truly astonishing is that even after all these years I can taste that sauce, mixed with these amazing meat balls that he made. My Father’s boyfriend, Cliff Smith, died of HIV/AIDS in 1992, his death was devastating to my family, Cliff was like a father to my siblings and I, what the power of cooking gives us in many ways is immortality. He taught me that recipe, and when I cook that sauce I think of him, I hear his voice, I remember being in the kitchen with him and helping him prepare the meal, I can remember the sound of his voice, telling me the same things that I am writing about here. Food is essential, cooking is essential, cooking for others is essential, teaching others to cook is essential, eating is essential, sharing a meal with others is essential. Why is cooking important? it means being creative, it means being alive and it means having a communal experience, it means being human. Creating art is the same, it is essential to the human to create, it is what makes us human, the process of creating is intertwined in the spiritual, creating is what makes as live on even after we have died.
For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
I am thankful I learned to cook as a child, I am thankful for all of the people in my life that taught me to cook. Every time I cut a squash, or prepare some rice, or even boil water, it brings me back to the people that have taught me. This is the same kind of gratitude I have for artists. I recently saw the Herzog documentary about cave paintings; I could not help but feel such an awe and reverence for the artists that made the paintings. What was even more amazing about the cave paintings is that the people that visited the caves, there is evidence that they visited them for over 5000 years. No one knows for certain why the cave was so important to the people of that time, or even why they painted the animals on the walls, but what we do know is that in way they have achieved immortality, they succeeded in preserving a part of human culture that most certainly would have been lost. I have such a reverence for other artists work because of this, I love looking at what my peers are making, what people before me have made, I can learn from what they have done, take their process their ideas, expand my own from this. Just as the recipes I cook in the kitchen are not exactly the same as the recipes I was taught as a boy, artwork and cooking becomes a continuation of thought.
For me my motivation for being an artist is not about making a work that will be hung in a museum or a gallery to bought by some rich collector (that would be nice and I wouldn’t object), what I really want from the experience of being an artist is to participate more fully each and everyday in the richness that being human gives us, to allow myself each day to develop a deeper appreciation of the world, to undo my learned fears and self doubt through the process of creating.