Do you ever notice that when you are not making your art for a while there is this slight feeling of disconnection, of isolation, that begins to build?
I think this is one of the reasons we make Art. It reconnects us to ourselves, which in turn also reconnects us to the outside world. I am not sure why this is but I do see that when we pay attention to doing the work (whatever that is for each of us) that is most pressing, most personal, the universe just seems to offer us a measure of buoyancy in return. Things just seem to smooth out. Life becomes more about the yes’s than the no’s.
This idea is poignantly illustrated by this remarkable story Paola Lanfranchi – a painter and recent ArtLife Workshop participant – recently shared with me:
“I want to share with you the story of an 83 year old man, my father. He lives in a small village in Italy.
He was a mason. A very simple and hard-working man. After he retired, at 65, he used to spend his time doing crosswords and watching TV. He needed antidepressants to survive his boredom.
At 74, after my mother was diagnosed with a terminal illness, something woke up inside of him. He wanted to build a toy. He says that it was for his grandson, but the truth is, it was just for himself! (Btw, his grandson, my son, wasn’t even born yet!).
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So he started walking around the house looking for wood and cardboard. He stole all the knitting needles of my mother. He became more and more excited in seeing the hidden treasures of old and unused stuff he could use for his toy. With about $5 (the cost of a can of glue) he made the most amazing carousel. It was gigantic, 3 stories, and had wheels that turned and activated other wheels and colorful forms.
Since that first experience he has been working non-stop with ever-growing passion, building more and more refined carousels, little houses, and castles. My brother buys him wood and glue. The rest of the materials come from cookie trays, small stones he patiently picks up from the dirt road where he lives, and various materials the neighbors bring to him.
A few days ago my brother posted a picture of my father’s work on Facebook. It went viral. Two local public libraries, local cultural associations, schools and a newspaper contacted him. Everybody wants to meet this old man and his castles!
My father lives alone with a dog, a cat and his creations. He cannot drive anymore, but he really doesn’t need to go anywhere. The world is now coming to him.”
I truly believe that all of us have our own unique work to do. I wonder if it might be one of the primary reasons we are given this life in the first place. I doubt many of us would get to the end of our lives and wish we had spent less time making our Art. On the contrary, it sometimes seems like maybe making our Art is the whole point. Maybe that is why when we see others finding their way, it inspires us to do the same.
Thank you Paola, and especially Piero Lanfranchi, for this poignant reminder. For those of you who would like to check out more of his work, click here.
What drives you to make your art? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.
In gratitude, Nicholas