Friday, March 19, 2010
This piece is from a series I did called In Lieu of Flowers, I Remember You. It’s about discovering the stories of family I never knew.
If I know a song of Africa, of the giraffe and the African new moon lying on her back, of the plows in the fields and the sweaty faces of the coffee pickers, does Africa know a song of me?
Will the air over the plain quiver with a color that I have had on, or the children invent a game in which my name is, or the full moon throw a shadow over the gravel of the drive that was like me, or will the eagles of the Ngong Hills look out for me? ~Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen) Out of Africa
Karen Blixen, played by Meryl Streep, is so eloquently and poignantly asking if she has created any legacy as she leaves her beloved Africa. Has she made a mark upon the land she so loved? She seems to hope to be remembered in some small way to have been a part of it all.
KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, photo by Robyn Gordon
Legacy goes beyond a set of assets left to our heirs. Legacy is a bit of influence, a mark made, an impact of some kind, or a physical bit of evidence that we were here, and we created.
As artists we create our work, we make a statement, we leave evidence – our art becomes a body of work, our blog posts and artist statements become a record. Have you thought about creating something that reflects and records your creative endeavors? Do you want to be the one to tell your story, or do you want to leave that for others, or do think your work will simply dissipate into the ethers?
Have you yourself received a legacy from a creative relative? Have you found value in learning from artists that have gone before you? Do you have a role model or role models in the artistic sense?
I have spent time interviewing my elder relatives, and recording their stories, and the stories they can tell me of their contemporaries, now passed on. I have written the stories and passed them on to other relatives. I do this out of love – for the stories of the past, for the recording of a life beyond a set of dates. I do this because the story would have been lost. Many people in my family were “makers” working with their hands, creating something useful or beautiful. My work is never done in regard to recording the stories.
Ancestral Voices, carving by Robyn Gordon
It gives me pause to think how my story might be told. And I think I want to have a say in how it is recorded and how I am remembered. I don’t want to be just a line on a family tree record, with dates and kinships being the solitary notation of my existence.
I know artists are using all kinds of new software, and developing books to tell their stories, to share their body of work so far, and to leave a mark on this earth. Blogs can be printed and bound in book form. What else is possible?
I plan on several more decades of creative endeavors, but I certainly could collect a set of images and words, and put together a record to date. (Titled Zen, and the Art of Collage, as suggested by Denise at the blog grrr+dog a while ago)
This piece is another from a series I did called In Lieu of Flowers, I Remember You. It’s about discovering the stories of family I never knew. Each piece contains hidden words I wrote about the feeling of connection I have with the work, and the people I heard stories about all my life, but never knew.
Another part of my legacy will be the encouragement I have given to the creative young people in my family, and for my steadfast belief that creativity is important, it matters and it will continue to be a positive influence in the world. That won’t be something to put in book form, but it is meaningful to me. It is that kind of legacy that Karen Blixen is speaking of when she asks “does Africa know a song of me?”
I’ll just mention that in my upcoming coaching group we will spend some time looking at Artistic Legacy. If you are interested in taking part, send me an email to coach leslie@ olypen.com (remove the spaces). There are still some spaces open in the group.
Do you think of your work as a legacy? Does it matter to you how you and your work are remembered? What are you doing to create a record of your work? If you decide to write about this on your blog, please let us know by leaving a comment here. I am interested in your thoughts.