Monday, August 8, 2011

Rebel With a Cause


 Growing up, I pretty much did what I was told in every situation - you know, the typical good-girl, pleaser type.   I did this to a fault; when I turned twenty-one  I made the horrifying realization I’d never even tried a cigarette!   (A little lame? Perhaps, but I don’t feel like I missed much on that score.)   But although I did subsequently spend a (legal) but drunken night smoking my friend Susan's cigarettes (and paying the price for it, too!), I still tended in general to be a pleaser, always attempting to do the right thing.  Until recently. 
Suddenly  I find I am a rebellious, eccentric, risk-taker!   I find myself branching out from the prescribed set of directions in almost every aspect of my life.  While at times it feels like being chased by cannibals across a rope bridge above a 200 foot drop, like everything else in my life at the moment, I’m just going with it.

Take cooking, for example.  Now I’ve been cooking for at least 35 years, and by now, I feel pretty confident that I know my way around a recipe – I don’t measure exactly, I add here, substitute there,  leave out what I don't like or have, and the food is edible,  good, often even delicious! (One noteable exception – I always follow any Julia Child recipe to the letter –– never mind that she’s dead and can’t see me - I’m scared of her!) ,

I guess all my success with cooking has gone to my head, or I’m getting to be one of those old people who doesn’t give a sausage for what others think (although I’m only 46!), because now I feel like I don’t have to strictly follow the rules in anything I do  -  let’s say, for example, trading a steady paycheck for a career in art, maybe?!

This rather insane behavior has, naturally, spilled over into quilting, painting, pretty much all my creative endeavors.  On most projects I start out trying to follow the directions , but suddenly I’ll get an idea.  The idea may or may not make any sense, but logic has nothing to do with it – once the thought forms, it knocks on my head like a hammer until I give in – so I’ll go ahead and incorporate the hair-brained scheme because it seems, I can’t control my inspiration – it controls me!  As a result, the whole thing often takes so much longer, is so much more difficult than it was originally and the results are far less than perfect.   And if - who am I kidding – when I get frustrated, whom do I have to blame but myself?   

Hmm – well actually, there are a few people I could blame, come to think of it…I could blame Robbi Joy Eklow - she makes amazing art quilts and she does everything with (GASP ) raw edges!  She says and I quote, “In art, you don’t get extra points for doing things the long way, and I can’t see the point of spending a  tremendous amount of time for a result that doesn’t matter to me.”   (Gotta love that woman!)  I could also blame the Houston Quilt Festival for showing me that pretty much anything goes when it comes to quilt art.  Hell, I could even blame my mother - it’s always the mother’s fault anyway, isn’t it?  I once told her during an argument, “ DUH Mother - if you wanted us to be just like you, you shouldn’t have taught us to think for ourselves!” 

Assigning blame aside, I get to a larger, perhaps more important question – does it really matter? (Which seems to be a theme in this blog, doesn't it?) Just like any coin, there are (at least) two sides to it.  There are many, many people who create incredibly beautiful art without ever breaking a single rule – and I can and do appreciate that a great deal.  But who creates the rules but us?   I’m not saying that rules are meant to be broken (I’m still at heart that goody-two shoes), but I firmly believe it’s okay to take risks or try nutty ideas - for art’s sake.   I find I just can’t be happy if I don’t feel free to experiment; I seem to have no choice but to stick to my side (or edge – whatever) of the coin which goes like this:  If I can make it work and I like it, I don’t care if it follows the rules – I don’t even care if the finished result isn’t exactly, well -  perfect, as long as in the end I still love it.

This may sound arrogant and I know it’s not for everyone, but for me, it’s exhilarating and incredibly motivating.  I get that I may never win any awards for my dangerous and wacky behavior, but that’s the beauty of creating – we each get to do it in our own little (badass) way.