Wednesday, April 24, 2013

True Confessions Of A Guerrilla Artist

My oh so terrifying knit bomb...
you're terrified right?
The time was midnight, it was dark and clear and you could just hear the sound of the wind rustling in the trees.  I had scoped out the spot earlier that day; not a security camera in sight.  I threw my bag over my shoulders and crept along the sidewalk.  As I moved through the night, my black clothes helping me to disappear into the shadows, I focused all my will power on calming my racing heartbeat.  This was my first job, and as much as I had prepared, the thought of getting caught still nagged at the back of my mind.  I needed to get in and get out.  Right then a car came zooming up around the corner.  Quick as a flash, I leapt behind a bush, ducking out of site from the gleam of the car’s high beams.  “Idiot!” I whispered loudly under my breath. “If you had just kept walking like you were supposed to be there, no one would have noticed you!  But no, you had to dress in all black from head to toe and then leap behind a bush like a criminal… because that’s not suspicious looking at all.”  I got up, brushed the leaves out of my hair, and kept walking towards my target, an old lamp post in the middle of downtown.  Once there, I paused looking around the deserted streets. No one is sight, good.  Bending over my bag, I reached in and grabbed the long roll of fabric I had spent the last three weeks making just for this moment.  Unrolling it I held it up the post and began to stich it on.  The needle slid into the fabric, knotted against the back and then synched the two sides together as I pulled it taught.  A lump fell into the pit of my stomach.  As I continued stitching, my hands began to tremble and I repeatedly kept dropping the needle and having to spend precious moments finding it again.  How long had I been standing here in the open?  The seconds were pounding away in my brain.  Another car zoomed round the corner and before I could stop myself I had dived into yet another bush.  Cursing myself for my ongoing stupidity I crept back to my project and began to ferociously attack my piece, sewing up the sides as fast as I could get my fingers to fly.  Finally, after what seemed an eternity of standing there exposed, I slid the final knot into place, cut the line, stuffed my things back into my bag and got the hell out of dodge.  As I slid back into the safety of my vehicle, my body began to shake uncontrollably, my hands fumbling to much to even secure my seat buckle.   Back at home I sat motionless, curled up into the fetal position on the corner of my couch, as if half expecting the police to burst through the door at any moment and carry me away.  I waited.  Nothing.  My eyes closed, my body exhausted by the emotional and mental strain of the night sagged and slowly I drifted to sleep…

Ok, so maybe I’m not cut out to be Sam Spade or the criminal type.  I mean come on, if I can’t even sew some soft fuzzy yarn on a pole without feeling like I’m suddenly on the FBI’s most wanted list… maybe that isn’t what I should be doing.

The thing is I LOVE guerilla art.  I love street art.  I love the passion behind it and the way that it brings a message directly to your audience without them ever having to pay $5 to step inside a museum.  Instead of them going to the art, you are simply just bringing the art to them instead.  Have I mentioned how much I love this concept?

So what’s a chicken, terrified-of-breaking-the-law-girl to do!?  Turns out a lot!

"The Gateway"
"A Line I Made By Walking"
In my adventures to find my street art niche, I tried all sorts of things.  Some didn’t turn out so well… hence the aforementioned story, but some of them really hit home with me, the two most prominent being Land Art and Guerrilla Gardening.

After my total failure as a knit bomber, I had decided to try something totally different.  Instead, of exploring the urban areas around me like I had been, I began to really dive into the natural elements surrounding me for a change.  Inspired by people like Andy Goldsworthy, Richard Long and Patrick Dougherty, I began creating work from nature.  I would often spend hours wandering around in the wilderness just getting to know the land, waiting for it to say something so that I could respond in the only way I knew how, through my art.  The best part was, this work wasn’t scary at all, it was almost sacred in a way.  I had found my niche.  To See more of my adventures in Land Art and read more about the projects pictured above, click HERE, HERE and HERE

After months of working with sticks and leaves and dirt and grass and trees and flowers and water and mud and whatever else I could come up with I began to really ache for those urban spaces again.  Then one day it dawned on me.  Why not simply mesh the two together?  Fueled with my newfound passion for land art, I began to brainstorm ideas for how I could combine the two disciplines.  After some time, I decided on a project that involved something known as guerrilla gardening.

At first, I was worried that this would be another horrific repeat of my knit bombing experience.  Nervously, I gathered up my tools and supplies that first day and headed downtown, determined to face my fears.  The difference was literally night and day… for one it actually was daytime.  I also didn’t try to dress up like some sort of crazed ninja assassin this time either.  Instead I was simply in a pair of jeans and t-shirt, slowly meandering around downtown pausing whenever I came to a spot I wanted to work.  I’m not going to lie, the first couple spots I worked I was pretty nervous, but nobody seemed to notice me.  Eventually it became clear that nobody really cared what I was up to as long as I wasn’t going to be smashing windows or vandalizing their property.  As I continued working, my confidence grew and I became more and more bold with my work.  In the end, I created and documented 21 separate guerrilla gardening installations downtown. If you want to see what my full Guerrilla Gardening piece turned out like, or want to read the artist statement behind what I was doing, check out THIS LINK HERE.

The moral of the story is, figure out what works for you.  You have to decide if your fear is coming from a place of discomfort with the act you are about to perform, or if it is coming from a place of nervousness about putting yourself out there as an artist.  If you are uncomfortable about the act itself, don’t do it.  You don’t have to be like everyone else.  Because you don’t like something, or are uncomfortable with it, doesn’t make you any more or less of an artist than another person, it simply makes you unique.  When you listen to your heart and go where it leads you, you will find yourself making the work only you could have made in a way only you could have made it.  Art isn’t about being the coolest, or the most trendy, or the most daring person.  It’s about having something to say and find your perfect medium in which to say it, your way.

So experiment this week, discover who you are, what you have to say and how you can say it. Don’t let your fear of exposure as an artist keep you from having your voice heard!
Me hanging out inside one of my favorite land art projects "Gateway"

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