Art is Necessary

The other day I was talking to a vocal student about Da Capo arias from the Baroque. I once had them explained to me as “One emotion or sentiment is expressed, then a major mood shift, then back to the original”. It works, it gets the point across.

As I was discussing it with my student I got a little carried away and it sent me on a thought tangent. I mentioned how everything in humanity evolves together–music, architecture, technology, even human thoughts and emotional processing–because the human mind collectively evolves together the more and more we come in contact with one another. So, for example, now that we have the internet, intellectuals gain vocabulary and ideas from one another within hours of their thoughts having been thought and shared. Everyone who reads their words and allows them to expand their knowledge will evolve to a new level of understanding and have new words to express something more specifically than it was expressed before. Whereas before we had as quick and constant of communication as the internet and motor travel allows us, there were certainly intellectuals, but the further we go back in history the harder it was for their words to have been read by the majority of the population. Its not that individuals with their own thoughts didn’t have brilliant ideas and amazing words for to express those thoughts, but not everyone was reading those words, or hearing them, let alone thinking critically about them. Our thought is evolving exponentially faster because of the potential for shared information on the internet–even false information. Those of us willing to read, to access, to critically think and consider, we are growing and learning daily from the collective hive mind of the internet.

As for emotions, I mentioned to my student that our expression and our understanding of complex processes like grief or heartbreak were fully felt, and often written about–but not always shared or spread as quickly as they are now. Van Gogh was a brilliant painter with the ability to use color so that it depicted emotions. He painted how he felt, not necessarily how reality would see. Still, it took his death for his artwork to be appreciated. Gaius Valerius Catullus (84-54 BCE) wrote words which were beautifully expressive of the process of heartbreak. Those words were written before the common era and waited until 1982 to meet their musical match in Argento’s composition “I Hate and I Love”. I don’t think any other genre or time period could have expressed the intensity of those words, their imagery, their pain, quite the same as Argento’s did. It took 2,000 years for them to be communicated in a genre beyond written words.

Historically, there were literally less words in the human vocabulary, less specific and universal understanding of those words, less techniques of uninhibited artistic expression with which to convey those words.

Music grew, in depth and understanding, from the simplistic understanding of emotion through da capo arias, and by the romantic era you have through-composed arias which literally change feeling from phrase to phrase, moment to moment, bar to bar, note to note–all as a result of the developments that came before it being reinterpreted and pushed further. THAT is much more accurate, to me, of the process of going through intense emotions like grief or ecstasy–even the involvement of both together in an emotional process. It’s more cognitive of the individual thoughts that lead us through those processes.

Not to say that before then we didn’t have the emotions or didn’t feel as deeply, but our understanding was limited, and those with understanding didn’t have their expression shared as easily as now. Without the words, or the composition/technical development, or the social/political FREEDOM to express, or the communication for that expression to be widely heard, or the cognition to hear the thoughts that are triggered by our feelings, or the psychology to understand thoughts as thoughts and not as messages from a god–how could some minds develop beyond the necessities of survival and forced beliefs, beyond political and religious censorship?

Words further musical expression. Musical expression furthers written and spoken expression. Art influences art. Art in different mediums makes understanding and emotional growth more accessible. Emotional and intellectual evolution is fueled by artistic expression of the human condition. Art is necessary for humanity to grow.

Art is NECESSARY for our intellectual and emotional evolution as individuals and as a collective existence. It is necessary to our self discovery as humans. It challenges humanity to look at itself in a way that politics and religion fail to do on their own.

Art is necessary.

The story of ‘STONED by OperaHippy’

In my mind, there has always been a lot going on. It’s weaving together stories, debating itself, deconstructing and reconstructing things, performing intense and almost constant cognitive behavior therapy–spinning in circles, round and around. I struggle with major depression, anxiety and ptsd, but I didn’t know that until a few years ago so before that I was just, circling around to avoid any one thing in particular.

In addition to having a fast mind and a soft heart, I’ve endured some intense trauma–emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse, plus the normal tragedies and happenings of life (privileged as mine may be, they have had a big impact on my sense of self and mental stability as an adult). The things which have always grounded me and helped me cope through abuse and moments of adversity, even before I understood what I was coping with, were acts of creation. Music, singing, sewing, crochet, jewelry making, painting. Even as a small child, my fort-building-game was competing with the best of them. The act of making something out of other things calmed me and brought me back to some unnamable, inexplainable sense of self-truth.

Creating centers me and always has, even when my center is hurting.

In addition to my mental health and abusive history, I have ALWAYS been fat… overweight, obese, plus size–however you’d like to say it. (We all have different preferences. I personally like to turn the hurtful words into empowering ones so–I’m fat and fabulous.) I’ve always struggled with my self esteem for so many reasons, but it all seemed to manifest in self hatred over my weight and my body. When I was younger I desperately wanted to be thin, with big hips. But, I’m fat with small hips and lots of love on the handles. I don’t lose weight easily and I, frankly, have bigger battles than that. Plus, I hated the idea that I needed to change my appearance to feel better in this world. I wanted to accept myself as I was. I knew there was someone to love in here, and she didn’t need to be thin, she needed to be accepted.

In December 2014, after a series of unfortunate events and witnessing a friend’s death, I finishing my Bachelors degree in Opera Performance. Given the chance to breathe, alone, for the first time in my life–I mentally bottomed out. I was lost, confused, hurt, alone, suicidal and terrified. I didn’t know where to go, what to do, how to live or move forward or get out of bed some mornings. Plus, my mental health had been ignored for too long. I had no choice but to deal with my head and the trauma of my past.

I had to begin to get to know and accept my body, my illness, and my strange mind. I needed to switch from a state of resistance to a state of acceptance. I needed life to be just a little bit easier so that I knew it was worth living. So, I dedicated myself to a lifelong journey of self discovery, self love, and healing–a journey I am still on today.

The process of healing was very traumatic in the beginning–as healing usually is. Lost, and desperate, I painted and journaled, wrote music–anything to get through the pain I was reliving. I eventually turned to metaphysics and found my pagan roots in Wicca. This led me to wire wrapping stones and crystals as a meditative practice. From there, the progression into the jewelry I make now was natural.

About two years into that journey, and a year before starting STONED, I began crocheting again for the first time since community college. It felt different though. My mind wasn’t so clouded. I wasn’t so pressured by my perfectionist tendencies and an over-compensating ego telling me my creations weren’t worthy of being completed. (Or at least, when I was burdened by that I could overcome it). I could count stitches, focus on long term projects, and undo mistakes without destroying my motivation by insulting myself into defeat. When I started making clothing, instead of the usual scarves and hats I’d made for years, I began looking through the market–on Etsy and IG– and noticed that there are a lot of people crocheting cute clothes–but usually only for a limited number of sizes. This is an issue I’ve encountered my entire life as a “Plus size” person, and a bigger busted woman. Some of the cutest clothes are only made for thin women, or certain body types. If they are made for bigger women, they are not made with the bigger woman’s body and insecurities and comfort in mind.

I began making things for myself and my friends–who all have a variety of beautiful and diverse bodies and styles and identities. I listened to their insecurities and modified the patterns and the fit so they felt comfortable until I figured out what worked. It came together so effortlessly, I took the hint from the universe and went with it. I finally did something I’d been wanting to do for years–I started an Etsy Shop.

I wanted to make clothing that allowed people to be bold, present, and empowered by their vulnerability. The name STONED has many inspirations. Primarily, it comes from the large line, the totem of spirits who have endured the suffering of oppression long before me–the people whose stories of perseverance and strength get me through my day.  Women, men, queers, POC, differently-abled and mentally stigmatized–those who fought and lived and died in another time for me to be here, now, standing on their shoulders and fighting this newer battle… a piece of the same war. A war for money and power. A war against freedom, uniqueness, progress, truth, acceptance, equality and freedom.

Here’s one of my truths–All bodies are beautiful!!!!!

We should all be able to celebrate our selves with unlimited self expression!

I’ve created to cope for so long. Now, I’m creating for me. I’m creating for you. I’m creating to create.

I believe in the ability of handmade items to empower us to be unique, outstanding, and fearless. A hundred people could be making the same type of pieces, but they’d each have their own uniqueness because they are made by an individual human’s hands–not a machine. Every stitch is personalized. In a strong handmade economy, many artists can all be successful with their own audiences–allowing each customer to find a truly unique style instead of buying a shirt that has been mass produced for a million other people in the world. We aren’t all the same, why should our styles be?

Additionally, the expansion of the handmade market is feeding our local, working class economy (putting money in the hands of artists and makers directly instead of into the hands of a large corporate stores with billionaire CEOs who barely paid the artist for their original design before mass producing it). When you support a handmade artist you are supporting their family, their community, their daily life. That money will likely go directly back into the local economy. When you support me, you’re helping me feed myself and my fur baby (a lovely little ESA cat named Embyr) and pay my rent. You’re helping me support other local artists and farmers, since I spend my money at farmer’s markets primarily. Handmade is fiscally, economically, and communally responsible!

I believe in individuals–ordinary humans–and their ability to change the world simply by allowing their true selves to be present and make conscious decisions in it. The ability to be present in a world like ours is dependent upon an empowered sense of self, and a fearless commitment to expression of that self regardless of our socialization. I try to instill some sense of that in every wire I bend and ever stitch I complete in hopes that it will gift some of that magic onto the person who eventually welcomes the garment or piece of jewelry into their life. A world in which we are all fearlessly expressing our personal and vulnerable truth is a world in which we all, eventually, can live free and equal–happy.

Click Here to visit the Etsy shop and see STONED creations.


 

To Be or not to Be…art is the answer.

 

Being an artist has nothing to do with your level of education or your ability to be paid for your work. Being an artist is about how you think, how you feel, how you express. It has to do with the way you see the world, the way a sunset or the glimmer in a child’s eye, or disaster or the tragic death of a young person can make you feel the infinite extremes of opposing emotions. It has to do with your willingness to create, to discover, to mold, learn, grow and change. It has to do with a survival need to create.

For me–art is about a constant need to find the good in the world, to find beauty where there is pain and to see possibility where there is no hope. I seek these things through my vision and expression because half of my mind wants to die and the other half desperately wants to show it there’s a reason to live. For me–art is literally my life. It is how I think and feel and exist. It has never not been present. It has always been around me in the form of my interpretation of the world in which I live. It’s hard to recognize it sometimes but it is always there. Art is something I need for ME. Any sharing of that expression with others may be beneficial for them, but even that is for me. I need art. I need it in my life and I need it in my mind. I can’t breathe when I deny myself the opportunity to see the entire world as an active work of artistic creation and expression which is constantly being molded and changed by everything in existence.

We are all artists and creators–making an impact and an expressive change to everything we come in contact with. I think it’s just that many people are afraid to recognize themselves as an artist or a creator. But art is not about any one medium–painting, singing, Crochet–making you money. It is about your willingness to see that you, too, are a creator of worlds simply because you exist in this one.

Choosing to recognize this in myself has been very difficult–and continues to be. But with it comes direction and purpose. It’s not an easy path for sure–but I couldn’t deny it if I wanted to. (Trust me, I’ve tried.)

To be an artist in practice is to be a constant student of the universe. Always seeking a deeper understanding of your medium or purpose or expression. Always becoming a little better, and never putting your discovery on a timeline. I do not wish to master anything, per se, but to continue the spiral of learning, finding more and deeper ways to express the miracles of existence within certain mediums. There’s no hurry. The discoveries are infinite. Being an artist isn’t a mountain you suddenly reach the top of and know you’re there and never leaving. Being an artist is 100% about the process of creation. The process is more important than the end–for us. And by focusing on the process and creating for the sake of creation, you assure there is no end to what you can learn to express.

Being an artist has nothing to do with your level of education or your ability to be paid for your work. Being an artist is about how you think, how you feel, how you express. It has to do with the way you see the world, the way a sunset or the glimmer in a child’s eye, or disaster or the tragic death of a young person can make you feel the infinite extremes of opposing emotions. It has to do with your willingness to create, to discover, to mold, learn, grow and change. It has to do with a survival need to create.

For me–art is about a constant need to find the good in the world, to find beauty where there is pain and to see possibility where there is no hope. I seek these things through my vision and expression because half of my mind wants to die and the other half desperately wants to show it there’s a reason to live. For me–art is literally my life. It is how I think and feel and exist. It has never not been present. It has always been around me in the form of my interpretation of the world in which I live. It’s hard to recognize it sometimes but it is always there. Art is something I need for ME. Any sharing of that expression with others may be beneficial for them, but even that is for me. I need art. I need it in my life and I need it in my mind. I can’t breathe when I deny myself the opportunity to see the entire world as an active work of artistic creation and expression which is constantly being molded and changed by everything in existence.

We are all artists and creators–making an impact and an expressive change to everything we come in contact with. I think it’s just that many people are afraid to recognize themselves as an artist or a creator. But art is not about any one medium–painting, singing, Crochet–making you money. It is about your willingness to see that you, too, are a creator of worlds simply because you exist in this one.

Choosing to recognize this in myself has been very difficult–and continues to be. But with it comes direction and purpose. It’s not an easy path for sure–but I couldn’t deny it if I wanted to. Trust me, I’ve tried. I don’t have a choice. The severity of my need for creation combined with my great aversion to people, drama, and responsibility over other human lives makes it so my only coping means of creation is self expression onto inanimate mediums. There is no question for me of whether or not I can live this life without art. I live this life as an artist or not at all. To be or not to be may be the question, but for me the answer is art and creation.

To be an artist, in practice, is to be a constant student of the universe. Always seeking a deeper understanding of your medium or purpose or expression. Always becoming a little better, and never putting your discovery on a timeline. I do not wish to master anything, per se, but to continue the spiral of learning, finding more and deeper ways to express the miracles of existence within certain mediums. The mediums are a projection of my inner experience. Truly–I am art and through my expression I am creating myself.

There’s no hurry. The discoveries are infinite. The more I discover about myself and the universe, the more I have to discover. Being an artist isn’t a mountain you suddenly reach the top of and know you’re there and never leaving. Being an artist is 100% about the process of creation. The process is more important than the end–for us. And by focusing on the process and creating for the sake of creation, you assure there is no end to what you can learn to express.

The Voice of Insecurity

“Nobody will ever love you if you act like that.”
 
This was the phrase I always heard as a child. Whenever I tried to express my inner fears, anxiety, worries, concerns, hurts, pains, insecurities, abuses, or upset in any way, some variation of it would come out.
 
My father didn’t know how to deal with my emotions–so he denied me and shut my emotions down. I became a master repressor and suppressor thanks to this. The poor man was gifted a daughter who feels emotions at very intense extremes, it made him feel like he was failing I’m sure–but it’s just who I am.
 
Unfortunately, his inability to sit through or help me through my emotions when things got rough led him to being cruel to me, telling me my emotions were out of line– burdensome– and that the expression of them would someday make me unfit to be a wife or lover to anyone. I heard the words all the time in a plethora of variations; “No man will want to marry you if… No man will love you if… Nobody will want to be your friend if… nobody will put up with…”
 
I now find myself trying to open up about my insecurities, to be honest and vulnerable, and every time after I do it, I feel worthless and undeserving of love after. I feel like a burden. I don’t see why anyone would want to be in my life, have me around. I see no benefit or profit that I could provide to those around me. I feel truly shamed and worthless, simply for expressing myself–simply for existing. I recluse into myself and my  mental prison, convinced I’m making everyone’s lives worse and they’d be better off if I wasn’t around.
 
The annoying spiral of this is that usually the things I need to express are insecurities. I need to express them so I don’t project cruelty onto people I love. (Another wonderful perk of being raised by a narcissist–my learned habit for dealing with repression is projection). So I try to be vulnerable sooner rather than explosive and cruel later. Then the guilt of having expressed myself comes on, and my father’s voice rings through my head, “Nobody will love you if you act like this.” That triggers more insecurities, which I then express and feel guilty and shameful about, and eventually I self sabotage everything good in my life.
 
The script runs through my perception of every interaction. “Nobody will love me if I disagree with them, if I have a bad day and can’t smile at them, if I don’t like how they’re treating me and ask for better treatment, if my depression or anxiety is acting up and I need someone outside my mind to ground me back to the shared reality.”
I can’t help it, the script plays silently in the background of my mind (because I’m so good at the repression) and before I know it, I’m stuck in hours/days/weeks of shame and self hatred mode–dissociated, emotionally distant–feeling abandoned even though I’ve chosen the prison for myself at this point.
 
I’m finally hearing this voice that I’ve suppressed for so long, because I’m opening up my mind and becoming more cognitive. I’m hearing it and it’s so painful and so strong and so overpowering and overbearing I just want to scream. But the person I want to scream at won’t understand or hear me–he can’t see past his own defenses. I want to run away, but the voice lives inside my own head and so I cannot run from it. I have to fight it. I have to go to battle, over and over again, with this voice that I just wanted to get away from forever. I keep trying to get away from it.
I distanced myself from my father, and those who project his words and will onto me through expressing things on his behalf. The distance from my father doesn’t make his voice disappear from my head, unfortunately. Also unfortunate, I literally cannot be around him anymore because he adds to and exacerbates this voice in my head and makes me literally want to die by ripping my body to shreds with my own bare hands. I wish I could fix this–but until I feel heard by him or I can overcome this voice entirely I can’t take it. I literally want to die when I’m around him. As awful as that is to say about one’s own parent, dealing with my father literally makes me want to kill myself.
 
I understand the voice is wrong. What its saying is not true. I understand I am deserving of love. I bring a lot to my relationships. I am empathetic and supportive an helpful. I am smart and creative. I am beautiful and stylish. I am talented and hard working. I am worthy of friendships, relationships, love, life, happiness, experiences, and otherwise living out my dreams. I understand those things, I do.
But I don’t believe them.
Hell, sometimes I find it hard to believe that veggies are good for me and eating them can improve my health. In fact, most of the time I don’t believe food has any purpose but to make my stomach stop growling, even though I know thats not true. I just can’t find the will power to believe in things that are good for me being possible or true.
 
Anyway… my brazen expression and sometimes overdone vulnerability (like now maybe?) is a result of my fight against this voice. The voice says a lot of things–but really its always giving the same message. I don’t deserve a good life, a happy life, a lover, a family, a career, success, friends, etc. It’s always a variation of that horrible sentiment. So yeah, I come off as fearless or confident because I am vulnerable and outgoing in my expression…. but that’s because I am actively fighting my demons pretty much every second of every fucking day. My demons are mean af and I can’t fight with violence, so I’m fighting with words and logic. Its exhausting and terrifying and constant lately. 
I’ve fallen in love. I want to allow myself to trust in love and let myself work toward and have a future with this person. I am having a hard time even allowing myself to be emotionally present though. I am having trouble not isolating myself. I’m having trouble reaching out. I am having trouble with this fight against the voice.
I’m exhausted.
But I really want to believe that love is possible for me in this lifetime.
So I fight.