Talking with an artist friend. Two different forms of art, two different ways of putting that into the world, same intention. He is a visual artist – clay, ceramics and solid tangible outcome of the creative spirit. I am a live theatre artist, a one time only in the moment ephemeral outcome. Nothing to possibly take home with you after you meet it, except the memory and maybe a paper program.

We agree: our art form is both from and empowered with spirit, the urge to create from the heart and soul, and very often, although not always, that vibration is reflected through the art to the audience who meets it. Sometimes in the effort to create we fall into the dead zone of simply reproducing and life-force can’t flow outward from the piece. Thus, the pot or the performance comes across as maybe beautiful, interesting, intense or even wonder-ful but without its own unique vibration. And it is that vibration which connects directly to the viewer, stimulating in them a powerful personal story with a unique personal vibration.

The best work we each create stands alone after we have taken our hands, the fire, the stage and personal embodiment away, leaving the gift alone to glow in the hands, fire, stage and personal embodiment of others.

As an artist whose work only exists in the moment, I am always wanting to somehow save it, memorialize it. Is that why we have programs with pictures and bios and words to try and describe why and how? Is that why we take photos, decorate our dressing rooms with objects accumulated throughout our process of rehearsal and performances? The silly little gifts, the heartfelt opening and sometimes closing night cards, tokens of jokes, shared moments of process and performance, good luck charms, dried flowers hanging upside down by the mirror.

The visual artist, the potter, often works alone. The camaraderie and risks shared belong to the theatre artist – with the actors, director, tech crew, stage manager and audience who accompanies us on the journey each night. My process and my gift is very different to the potter. His begins alone and ultimately his creation stands there, its own alone thing, able to be touched with the flesh of hands, to be picked up and moved to a different location, able to break into pieces. My work begins in group, goes out from one group to another, and cannot be moved, taken away or touched with hands. Nor can it be broken.

Both forms exist ultimately, however, in the minds, hearts and souls of those who receive it. When the potter completes his piece he leaves it alone – he does no more with it, it is not his anymore. When the actor walks backstage after the show, it is not hers anymore either, but has evaporated into the ether of existence. A trace memory for many, and each memory uniquely different to the other.

Does the pot look and feel different to each who sees it and touches it? Yes. Can the potter make the same pot again? No. The clay will be a little different, the firing accomplish its own unique mark in the final product, the environment will add its own nuance to the new object.

Can the actor reproduce the same performance tomorrow? No, and if he tries it dies before it begins. Each time it has to be a new creation in order to truly live.

And when the last performance is over, when the show closes its run, then it is no more. Most shows are never remounted, a few may be but often with different players. Even if done so with exactly the same human and environmental conditions it will be a different show, the nuances of this remade piece will be different to the first. As each performance is different so is the outcome of any attempt to bring that show back.

So what remains the same in each art form, why do it again and again? Because in each rendition, each careful, passionate and personal attention/intention, that new ‘thing’ will be its own magic, to a new set of people in their different and unique place and time. Even the same audience who comes to see the next pot, or performance, will not only witness a different version but will themselves be a little different.

And that is the power of art. It reflects back to us, the first creator and recipient creator (for in receiving art we also create it), the uniqueness in all of us. Paradoxically, at the very same moment and place, a thread of familiarity with recognizable elements, provides a safe, comfortable place from which to engage in our differences.

When the arts of any kind are created with pure core intention, when the audience can open to them with any kind of willingness to engage their own core being, then the power of community is forged. That is why for as long as there have been Human Beings on this earth, they have made art. They have left behind pots, objects and other physical representations of their lives. Storytellers, dancers, actors and musicians embodied the lives we lived, leaving behind texts and images of their work in frozen rendition without breath, but with potential power.

Society and culture needs both. Those who create solid objects that immediately or eons later we can hold in our hands feeling the power and life of another human being through that object. Those who risk all to put before the living images of themselves in sweat, breath and sound, knowing that it will only survive in recollection. Giving to the living a trace, and the opportunity for other living beings to take the inert form from the page or the word passed down, to recreate for future living beings.

The most profoundly healing and empowering art is that which speaks to those who come after the initial audience. That is the most magical creation, the one that comes through so purely in its resonance that it continues to ignite the souls of others, long after the maker is gone. The art of De Vinci, Michelangelo, whose solid forms inspire wonder, awe and appreciation. The texts of Shakespeare and the Greeks, which can be brought to life again and again, in the moment of live performance.

Talking with an artist friend. Two different forms of art, two different ways of putting that into the world, same intention. Our shared intention – to bring forth in our forms of art as much universal truth and impersonal power as we can through the investment of our personal truth and power. Bring it forth and give it away.

Give it away that the magic will continue through the participation of the recipient creators all of whom may take it for their own, creating their own unique truth and power. No matter what is solid, no matter what isn’t. It is the intangible of how it touches the depths of each of us that really matters and that is what artists offer. That is why we look for artists in our communities. That is why need art.

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