Last night, I participated in Creative Pinellas’ Emerging Artist Panel, where I got to speak with my fellow Emerging Artist cohort about our processes, inspiration and work. Part of the way into the conversation, someone asked us who our arts heroes are and where we draw inspiration from, which is a fantastic question! Reflecting on this today, I realize that I haven’t yet written about this.
Many in the cohort spoke about drawing inspiration from artists outside of their specific arts disciplines, which definitely resonates. For me, art and politics are closely linked. I am particularly drawn to women whose art not only paved new pathways in its form and style but also in furthering visibility around equality, feminism and queerness through their work; Audre Lorde, Georgia O’Keefe, Rebecca Solnit, and Roxanne Gay, to name a few. There are also those whose art exists out of political necessity, drawn from great need or negligence. In 2014 I read about Emma Sulkowicz’s “Carry That Weight,” a performance art in which Emma carried a 50-lb mattress with her wherever she went on her Columbia University campus to call attention to sexual assault on campus and the fact that her rapist was still a student despite her reporting his abuse. I was stunned by her bravery and the ambition of her work. This is the stuff that stops me in my tracks.
And then there are the theatrical trailblazers who have opened up my mind to the myriad possibilities of what can be done with live theater; Writers, choreographers, and directors like María Irene Fornés, Pina Bausch, Caryl Churchill, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins and many more. I am always adding new names to this list. I just finished an Isabel Allende novel titled “The House of Spirits” (I’ve been on an Allende kick lately) that beautifully wove Latin American history, politics and multi-generations of families together. These artists remind me to go back to the basics of my art-making and really think about what I am making and why it needs to be seen and heard now. There’s always a piece of me in the theater I create, usually tied to personal experience, but it’s also bigger than myself. I’m grateful for these innovators and art-warriors who have helped me to see this.