When Art Becomes A Mirror To Ourselves

I often become obsessive about things. I will get stuck on an idea or a person and research all I can to learn as much as I can about that subject.  About a month or so ago my buddy Austin mentioned he was going to see a filmed production of A Streetcar Named Desire that was being broadcast at a local movie theater.  I happened to have the night off, which is a rare occasion for me, and we went.  It was a production that had been telecast from the Old Vic Theater in London and featured Jullian Anderson as Blanche Dubois.  It was mind blowing good, tapping the raw sexual underbelly of the script that is often softened to make it more digestible for the average audience.  I suddenly was in a spiral obsession of everything Tennessee Williams.  I discovered there had been a new biography published this past September by John Lahr called ‘Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh’ that cut to the core of Williams personality mostly revealed through his personal letters and the actual text and historical drama that surrounded his career.   Let me preface this by saying some 30 years earlier when I was a budding theater-directing student I turned my then obsession with Tennessee Williams into my graduation thesis project.  I have been a fan and avid Williams –o- phile for most of my adult life.   This is the one man in my life I truly wished I could have met.  Unfortunately he choked to death on a pill bottle lid and died before my obsession began.  The new book reveals there was little separation from Williams and his work.  His works become a product of his own neurosis.  No wonder his works evokes such strong emotions within me.  Then as now his work inspired me to become my own sort of artist and seek to express the truths within myself.  So to become an artist, did it mean we had to become deranged self-loathing alcoholics who are essentially social outcasts?   I don’t think so, but perhaps it helps in revealing who and what kinds of lives we have lived.  Art is an expression from the perspective of the artist’s experiences.   The more we become aware of those experiences and don’t repress or deny them, the more powerful they become.  It can take a lot of courage to look within ourselves and show others what we feel.  To bare our souls and put forth for others to either connect with or judge.  Most of my life I have faced hardship, censorship, much of it self imposed, fear, doubt, and anxiety.  But I have always tried to look at it objectively and figure out how it has shaped my own humanity.  In a sense I think my greatest gain has been compassion for others, those less fortunate.  I see the positive things in others and have the ability to reflect them back showing them the more positive aspects of themselves.  I deeply connect to this, come up with how my own life experiences and create a reflection.  A while back, a kid approached me about an incident that he couldn’t remember. He had gone on a date with someone and next thing he remembers was waking up in a hospital after being found in an alley stripped and severely beaten.   He was having difficulty dealing with it emotionally and needed desperately to come to terms with the incident.  I also had a similar incident happen to me when I lived in DC when I was also very young and strongly connected to what he was going through.  We talked about it for hours and finally agreed that we needed to turn this into some powerful visual representation.  I staged and lit the studio and we worked on what would become an emotional photo shoot and a very powerful series of images for both of us.  Today’s image is from that series.  This time around, my obsession with Tennessee Williams I have a greater appreciation for his work.  I am grasping the deeper meaning in the context of his world and characters because how much it now relates to me and the history of what I have become.  I only aspire to express such emotion within the context of my own work!
Thank god for my obsessions.