Art and Joy

I celebrate September 26th every year as my Art Anniversary – the day I took the plunge back into creativity. I’d done lots of crafty things as a kid, but once I headed off to college I put “childish” things aside. The result? I was a Ph.D’d college professor, and I was miserable. Determined to find my way back to joy, I took a linocut class. Below is the first print I created, focused on pleasure. “A Few of My Favorite Things” depicts gardening (I do more these days), swimming (now and then), my ex-girlfriend (oh, well), the city of San Francisco (a more abiding love affair), and – what I hoped would be a new favorite thing – printmaking. Engaging in creative activity transformed my life, hence the name Chrysalis Studio. “Chrysalis” refers not only to the sheath that protects the caterpillar as it matures into a butterfly, but also to the creature itself as it undergoes that transformation. The name has proven infinitely appropriate: many evenings I see my students slog in after a long day’s work, shoulders sagging, eyes glazed. Like parched plants receiving water, engaging creatively renews them, connecting them to a spring, a source, deeper and fresher and more vital than anything I know. By the end of class, late as it may be, they're alive again. On more than a few occasions I've slogged in as well, drained by one drama or another, and by the end of class I’m flitting out the door with them, connected to that same current. As Buffy Sainte-Marie says, “We have to sniff out joy. Keep your nose to the joy trail.” It’s a lesson I’ve had to return to – I find it to be on ongoing practice – but one that never fails me.

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