The following blog post is a cross-post from Writespace.
Ever since childhood, I’ve been an art museum lover. I’m the person that gets to a new city and visits the art museum the very next day. I’ve been to museums in Israel, Portugal, Austin, Boston, New York, DC, Mexico, Maine, and more. It’s a ritual that helps me learn about the city. Different curators work in different ways. Museums have wide ranging collections – from Van Gogh in Dallas to Rothko in Houston. Galveston art museums feature works inspired by the ocean. Portuguese museums are rich in religious artifacts. The Boston art museum includes historical American pieces. Art is a way into a city.
Recently, I’ve noticed a subconscious illustrative quality to my own writing. My work tends to get accepted by Journals that feature art and innovative layouts. I published a poem in Vine Leaves, which is a beautiful magazine-sized journal, and a micro fiction in Literary Orphans, who boasts a collaborative platform between art and writing. My work is lyrical—visual even as it is words on paper. As I track this in my own work, I think about the influence of art. Art is a way into writing.
It’s not that I stare at paintings every day and write from them, although that can be a fun exercise. Part of it is that I am basically a failed visual artist. For a long time that was the career I thought I would follow, and then art classes destroyed my creative desire. Teachers forced me to draw something real. I rebelled--and dropped out of any formal teaching. I still draw, but most days my creative endeavors are applied to writing, where I don’t mind being told what to do. The other part is that I’ve always defined myself as an artist. I’ve written before about my creative inspiration: my aunt, artist Evelyn Peterson. Being the creative person in the family means you are either the black sheep, or the darling. I’ll let you guess which I turned out to be. As my work naturally finds its way into visual representation, I re-learn that art is a way into myself.
The juxtaposition of art and writing isn’t just about responsivity. In writing about art, or using art as inspiration, or having a background of visual art as writers, we’re not just responding to the art itself – to the way it looks on canvas, but something deeper. Visual artists work from the same creative spark of a writer--they find something in the world that disturbs their imagination, and they use it to create. Artists and writers cross over into their imagination, they come close to the disturbance, they bring it within themselves and push it out again, like a heartbeat. Art is a way through the darkness.
On February 13th, I’ll be hosting an art-based idea generator workshop at Writespace. The idea generator is a short workshop meant to give writers creative inspiration--to draw them close to the disturbance. It includes prompts, exercises, thought experiments, and a general fun atmosphere. The idea is not to count words, but to inspire them. We’ll explore different ways of approaching the visual through writing. We’ll also step into one of the artists’ studios, and talk to a visual artist about how they approach their work. For this workshop, art will be a way to generate new ideas.
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Holly Lyn Walrath is a freelance editor and author of poetry, flash fiction, and short fiction. Find her on Twitter @HollyLynWalrath
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