July 26, 2018

Anger as Fuel for Creativity

I am angry, people. Raging angry. These days, it seems to me that anger gets a bad rap. The bad rap is attached to the (mistaken) interpretation of anger as a violent action or as justification for destruction. Anger is an emotion, plain and simple. It is not action. It is not impetus. It is a feeling.

But far too often, and too often whipped up by sensationalist media stories, anger is equated with hatred, bigotry, close-minded judgement, and any number of destructive beliefs and/or behaviors that are employed as crutches to supposedly justify and explain rude, disrespectful, threatening, and/or violent actions. I do not subscribe to this understanding of anger. Rather, as poet David Whyte describes in Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words, anger is:
the deepest form of compassion, for another, for the world, for the self, for a life, for a family and for all our ideals, all vulnerable and all, possibly about to be hurt. Stripped of physical imprisonment and violent reaction, anger is the purest form of care, the internal living flame of anger always illuminates what we belong to, what we wish to protect and what we are willing to hazard ourselves for.
My internal living flame of anger was stoked mightily by my recent reading of Judy Chicago's Through the Flower: My Struggle as a Woman Artist. First published in 1975, I expected the material to be dated.  I was unpleasantly surprised by how relevant the book remains. The institutionalized chauvinism, sexism, and phallocentricity that Chicago describes so thoroughly infuriated me, I had trouble sleeping for weeks. I seethed anger. My anger roiled into resentment.

When I took a step back and was able to identify the resentment, I realized it was clouding my anger. My resentment was pure negativity. It served no useful purpose. In fact, it blocked the channels, established long ago in my studio practice, that funnel my anger into creative work. With effort, I consciously and purposefully released my resentment.

And then, the a-ha! moment. Resentment banished, yet still angry, I read a short piece in Womankind magazine that focused my anger and provided a new avenue for creative work - ecofeminism. As described by Antonia Case in "Ecofeminism" (Womankind #16, pp 20-21):
French writer Fran├žoise d'Eaubonne coined a term in the 1970s called ecofeminism, which examines the relationship between the exploitation of nature and the position of women in society, believing that there is a link that warrants further examination. D'Eaubonne argued that the ecological disaster we face is a result of a patriarchal system that treats nature as a resource to be used and exploited - dominated and controlled - rather than a precious reserve to be given the space and means to flourish.
I'm hooked. My anger has a focus, and a potential outlet in new work. While I plan to continue to make yoni pieces and work that celebrates, venerates, the feminine, I can't deny the part of me that gets fired up and energized by anger. Anger, for me, is a creative tool. Anger is inspiration. Anger is fodder for art. As David Whyte puts it, my anger truly does illuminate what I belong to, what I wish to protect, and what I am willing to hazard myself for. The form of expression I use for it is my art work, anger as creation rather than destruction.

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