Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Jeff Perry's Commencement Speech and Thoughts About Art

Last weekend we celebrated my daughter, Samantha's graduation from Illinois State University. She graduated with a degree in graphic arts. She the perfect blend of my husband's architectural talents along with my artistic talents. She's got the best of both of us.

I was delightfully surprised by how entertaining the two hour long graduation ceremony was. I guess that comes from being a school of the Arts. My own graduation was such a snoozer that I got up in the middle of it and told my parents to leave, promising to meet them back at my apartment. (But that was Liberal Arts and Sciences.)  ISU's speakers were sincere and interesting, the music was great, including a performance of the song Spring  Awakening, even the graduates names were pronounced in such a theatrical way, often including nicknames, that it was entertaining.

The commencement speaker, actor Jeff Perry of ABC's series Scandal was wonderful. He spoke about the graduates of the arts as being "built for doing dangerous and reckless things." I loved listening to the passion he has for the arts and the energy in the room as these young people were about to" explode on out of here." He spoke about his own life struggles and sprinkled his speech with several quotes, including one from Oscar Wilde, "Be Yourself- everyone else is  already taken."

 The quote that resonated  the most with me was from Martha Graham; dancer, choreographer, and teacher:

"There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and there is only one of you in all of time. This expression is unique, and if you block it it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how it compares with other expression. It is your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly, to keep the channels open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware, directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channels open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever, at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest, that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others."

At a time when I have so many other artists, visible on social media, to compare myself with this is comforting. It reminds me it doesn't matter how many "likes" one artist has or how many people follow your blog or even how many paintings you sell. What matters is that you evolve into your true self, you  morph into the artist you are meant be regardless of all that is going on around you. I am not suggesting that you do not be allow yourself to be affected by what's around you, "stay open to the channels", just don't "become" someone else that you are not. And it helps to know that the drive that pushes us forward always wanting  more, better, always challenging is a good thing not our enemy, embrace it.

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