walk twice, speak once, zero diplomas

photos by Rachel Call

photo by Rachel Call

This one time, being today obviously, i spoke at my college's convocation ceremony. I felt pretty cool just being asked to do so, you might not know this, but i like public speaking. Oh and this is my second time walking (i walked in April before I knew they wanted me to speak in August) and I don't actually get my diploma until December, a whole two credits of internship are holding me back...

After two meetings with Paul, two lunch meetings and three regular type with Val, one review from the committee, a handful of revisions, a dress rehearsal, and about twenty hours of my time, here is my five minute speech in its entirety.  I had the images appearing on the screen as i talked so this obviously isn't as cool. (If you select one photo it will display all of them in a slideshow way at the bottom of your screen, that way you can see them larger--as you should.)

From Crayons to Diplomas---Always an Artist
Fine Arts & Communications Convocation
Brigham Young University
August 10th, 2012

I always knew that I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. In the beginning the medium wasn’t important, I bounced between oil paints, crayons, fabric, clay and when my mother would permit, I would commandeer the family camera and take the allotted three photos. Back then, in my eyes, it only took 3 things to mean I was an artist and therefore bound for fame and glory:

1. My work had to be hung for all to see
2. It had to receive praise from the most prestigious source
3. It had to produce an income.

Being an artist was easy at age 5. I would line the walls of our home with my one-of-a-kind creations and charge my family admission to the “museum.” I even convinced my mom to purchase one of my finer pieces, 'The Girl Turkey Mermaid,' when I threatened to rip it in half if it wasn’t procured. With that purchase I knew I had hit the big time, the most prestigious people in my life, my parents, had not only made my work profitable but had given my work praise.  It didn’t occur to me then that almost every kid in the nation had access to a 64 pack of crayons, parents that thought they were the cat’s pajamas, and the complete work of Dr. Seuss to borrow ideas from.

Though it has always been popular for children to gravitate towards the arts because of the creative nature and bold colors, these days it’s become increasingly more popular to use the same motives to claim one’s self as an artist in adulthood. Hipsters are cleaning out thrift stores of antique cameras and every smart phone user can access Instagram, the largest photo sharing social media app in the world. Some of us might have gotten into the arts for these hip reasons or to be an ‘individual’ but, it doesn’t really matter what got us here, just that we found a reason—within each of us—to stick out the long days and sleepless nightsto create, print, and frame our work.

With my weak argument about what it took to be an artist as a child, it is no surprise that it took me years in the program to finally understand my own need for art. In the beginning I stressed completing assignments with the correct methods and techniques. The ability to release the shutter at the correct moment wasn’t making me an artist; my work lacked a personal voice and motive. It wasn’t until I decided that I wanted to spend my last full year of school devoted to a personal project that I rediscovered the love for photography that I had gained as a thirteen year old when I spent every penny I had on my first camera. In 8 months I traveled to all 9 of my siblings’ homes to photograph them. I took over 7,000 images ranging from potty training their children, to carefree motorcycle rides, to giving birth, to Thanksgiving dinner. This project reminded me that I became a photographer to capture the moments in life that are ordinary but show personalities and evoke memories.  Part of my artist statement for that show read, “Most photographers spend more time working for clients than documenting the people and moments that mean most to them. To photographically neglect my family would be the greatest failure of my career.”

In one of my favorite books about creating art, Art & Fear, the authors, Bayles & Orland explain, “The desire to make art begins early. For some the desire persists, and sooner or later must be addressed. And with good reason: your desire to make art beautiful or meaningful or emotive art-is integral to your sense of who you are. Life and Art, once entwined, can quickly become inseparable; at age ninety Frank Lloyd Wright was still designing, Imogen Cunningham still photographing, Stravinsky still composing, Picasso still painting.”

Like me, the desire to create art persisted in my fellow classmates. The following images exemplify how they were able to push through the creative process and find their own voice. 

Having a career in photography means that we are competent enough at our medium to create an image for a client as they envisioned it, but being a photographer means that we spend our time—between jobs—working on the images that will sustain us as an artists and humans. One of our professors, Paul Adams, constantly says “if you can imagine yourself doing anything else, get out of photography now and do that thing instead.” He understands that being an artist isn’t a career choice; it’s who we are. There is a quote that we keep hung in the dark room that further illiterates this point “Artist don’t get down to work until the pain of working is exceeded by the pain of not working.”

We learned how to successfully execute our mediums in school, but it is in our hearts that we find our passion and use it to transform blank canvases. At times our friends and family won’t understand how we can always be thinking in terms of art, how when we look at a blank, boring, white wall we see color or artwork that should hang there. But we aren’t artist for them, we are artist for ourselves, because we really don’t have a choice. It is at this point that we begin to fear. We fear that we aren’t talented, that we will run out of creativity, that other people are better, that no one—not even our mom— will love our work, and lastly that we are just students and our life as artists will end with graduation.

When the fear sets in, I remember the personal projects. I remember that not all artwork is great, that usually it takes many failed attempts to have what I envisioned come to fruition. I remember that just owning a camera doesn’t make me an artist. But most importantly, I remember that first moment I knew I could not live without creating art.

Thank you.

Always an artist.

Meet me circa 1996 or so. Don't you just loooove the bowl cut?! I know I did...

I know you were taken away with my beauty in the last image and because of this you may have failed to notice my homemade sidekick, Cynthia. Now that you and Cynthia have been formally introduced let me explain my thoughts on the arts as a child.

Art: anything that was created by you that had at least three different mediums involved. Mediums were: (basically anything I could get my hands on) most commonly paper, fabric, yarn, Sculpey Clay, and lace held together by: glue, tape, toothpicks, tread, tinfoil, pipe cleaner, or anything else deemed sticky enough.

I always considered myself quite the budding artist. As a child I used to create memorable drawings of such things as: 'The Scary Mommy,' 'A Girl Turkey Mermaid,' and 'A Girl Dinosaur in a Purple Bra.' I knew I had something going on so I started making even more creations and then telling my mom I would rip them up if she didn't buy them from me, needless to say I earned a lot of nickels. I would even line the longest hallway of our house with my work and charge my family to see the 'art gallery'.

After a few years of this I moved on to sewing and creating dolls. By now I was around 8 years old and apparently had free range of the sewing closet and the store room that was chalked full of art supplies.

My first creations were, well, how do I put this nicely... interesting. Here is one doll made of yarn and the other made of paper and tape. (I think the yarn one was me trying to emulate the corn husk dolls I had seen, why did i think corn husk and yarn were close enough to the same material?!)

Next I got a little more resourceful and the tube sock doll was invented. With this there was also progression, first a lonely head, next a full body, and last a doll that actually didn't have the seams on the outside and even had feet.

Then something magical happened in my life, I found Sculpey. Sculpey is a moldable clay that you then bake to set. This 'helped' my creations a bit but they also became fragile, hence the one poor curly headed girl that only has one foot. But then I found out that their were Sculpey molds which gave me perfect hands and feet and I could even paint the nails!

(don't you love that awesome Christmas dress with puffy sleeves?!)
Then later I skipped the whole doll thing and tried out just dresses and pillows. My sisters still give me a hard time for the large pillow. I hadn't yet figured out how to hide a sewn seam so for this pillow I found it easier just to hot glue it shut. Now my pillow has a nice hard lining :)

I can't believe I made all of these things. All of the ones that I showed here have not seen the light of day since I boxed up all my stuff when I was 16 to move in with my sister. I did come accross two lonely dolls in a box last fall when I was looking for something, and boy did they make the most wonder stocking stuffers for my sisters! I love how one of them had questioning googly eyes and the others arms were about half the width of its head. Priceless.

I can't wait to see what I am going to find when I really go through all of my stuff in a few months...

this is happiness

my sisters used to make fun of me because apparently i would say basically everything i liked was a 'simple pleasure' (prime example: walking up to someone's front door and being engulfed by the scent of clean laundry because the dryer vent is by the door), well its true, i like a lot of things.

here are my most recent favorites:

cupcakes and congratulations from friends
"i knew you would get in, its in your name! BarFAny"
oh Cameron...

finding my bathtub covered in colorful drawings and loving notes

using the bathtub crayons to do math while i shower.
(i happen to thoroughly enjoy math)

coming home from work to fresh baked cookies
and it isn't even close to Christmas

'Fat Booth' on the iPhone.
$0.99 well spent.

having a panda wielding guns greet me when i park at my office.

life is good.