Beyond the gallery, book, and show: the creative expression of self
A column and article series about a journey to explore the variety of arts.
What is art? Who is an artist? Where does the artist end and the art begin? What is discipline and what is gift? Where does the audience fit in? These are just a few of some very big questions that come up when talking or philosophising about art and creating. I can’t promise to answer any of these questions or others you may have, but I would like to start a path to travel and learn on. Embark with me once again on The Arts’ Spice Road.
In the last edition of Muse, The Hollywood Edition, we explored a taste of the diversity of art and its contributors. We focused on a videographer, a dancer, and a visual artist. We dug into the idea of gift and discipline and how the balance of the two are crucial to a lifestyle and expression that many often only be seen as a seamless marvel. We travelled through the different journeys of how the identity of artist became part of each individual.
In this, The Beyond Edition of Muse, I would like to expand that idea. I would like to look at an artist dedicated to creative expression in herself and in others. I would also like to reflect on Beautiful Response, Multnomah’s creative expression focused chapel week, and look at the Multnomah’s artists beyond the chapel venue.
Now, this edition’s focus…
A bit of Janelle Gregory’s Story
Janelle Gregory’s mom has photographs of Janelle drawing doodles from as early as age three. When Janelle was in junior high she was homeschooled, and as soon as she’d finish her work she’d spend hours in her room drawing. Much of the notes she took from sermons at church were filled with doodling. She’s not sure what influenced her to draw because no one else in her family really did art.
Janelle never struggled with accepting part of her identity as an artist because she was always ‘the artist in the family. It wasn’t until she actually took art classes and saw other artists her age to compare herself with that she began struggling with the title of “artist” a bit. In high school, when she stopped homeschooling, she took art classes. She absolutely loved them, and her teachers affirmed her passion and talent while also exposing her to new techniques.
Janelle was able to take quite a large variety of art classes, and most of her electives in high school were art classes. She took ceramics, basic design, drawing, painting, stain glass, and metal work. Janelle was also able to get some art experience with the theatre department doing costumes. She didn’t know what other kids did for their electives because her passion was immersed in her art classes. Her senior project was a series of four paintings that ended up being mounted and hung up in the school.
After high school, Janelle was given a bit of a rude awakening that helped her develop her skills more. She took a painting class at Mt. Hood Community College where the professor graded everyone very harshly. She thought this was strange because, well, ‘how can one grade art?’
But just a couple months ago she pulled out some of her work from her time in that class and found that her professor had been right. Janelle learned a lot from him, especially about color theory; now, she actually loves to work with colors. Before she found paint colors frustrating, and water color in specific drove her crazy. Now she loves playing with colors.
While doing art at Mt. Hood Janelle also took a variety of other classes. She fractured her hand in ceramics class and had to take a cartooning class instead of the one she wanted. Though her teacher was a professional cartoonist, Janelle didn’t want to take the class. Mostly, she was hesitant about cartooning because she was afraid of the stereotypes about cartooning and cartoonists.
She found she was wrong though. Janelle ended up enjoying the class so much that she looks back on it as one of her favorites now. The teacher encouraged her to express her own creative unique cartoon and idea. She ended up doing a series on her and her little sister.
That, simplistically, is Janelle’s idea of artistic expression; it is finding your unique creative way to give voice to your heart. Typically, Janelle’s favorite art forms to work with are paint and pen and ink, and she enjoys mixing medias too.
The media, or channel of creative communication, depends on the spirit of what is being communicated. Sometimes Janelle chooses to write songs and pick up her guitar to let the art out of her. Somehow the art is always something from inside of her.
Yet, it is not always what she expects. Once, in a sculpture class, Janelle wanted to create a piece to memorialize her grandmother. She wanted the piece to be dark but when she started putting details into it she found something unexpected.
“I expected it to have a bunch of blacks and blues but instead it had flowers blooming out of cracks in the midst of all these shattered pieces of glass and stuff,” she said. It was as if God was telling her to let go, that that part of her life was done. That was actually the last art piece she did at Mt. Hood Community College before she started at Multnomah University.
Now, mainly her art is for other people. She takes a verse or part of a song and integrates it into a painting and then she gives it to someone. Recently, Janelle was talking to Lisa Wold about counseling. Lisa suggested that putting art and therapy together might actually be something for her to continue with people. The reason being that God has taught her to process even her own emotions and heart through art.
For example, last year there was a time when Janelle was quite depressed. She wrote a song, and through it heard God. Janelle was able to heal, grow and move forward. She explained, “I express myself through art. It’s easier to communicate what I’ve been through – through a song or a painting than to verbalize it.” She said it’s also, “cathartic to put the paint on the canvas.”
Talking to Janelle was inspiring and encouraging. With tea and good conversation, I gathered that unique self-expression and a therapeutic process is creativity. The question I asked Janelle next was mostly a continuation of what we’d already been talking about – What is art? Or how do we know if we are artistic? Or more closely related to our previous conversation – What is creative expression?
The conversation that followed brought us to The Beautiful Response that took place between the 16th and 20th of April 2012.
When asking people to give submissions for The Beautiful Response, many kept telling her that they aren’t creative at all. Janelle disagrees with people when they say they are not artistic. “You don’t have to paint to be artistic…,” she says. It just takes that something that makes them unique – some way of expressing themselves that is just them. So, creativity is about expressing yourself. That is why The Beautiful Response was not just another task on Janelle’s StuGo responsibility list. She was excited about Beautiful Response. When she took it over, she understood that the heart was for it to be a time and space for people to get to share their stories. She says, “It assures you (the audience – the peers) that you are not the only one going through this…” Dancing, painting, poetry, music, whatever it is, seeing people who often just do art for themselves take the risk to share their artistic hearts with others is amazing. And, “seeing the whole student body respond to how the people were sharing was (and is) cool,” Janelle says.
–Tiina Mall is a senior Communication Studies major.