Why identity matters
When we’re looking for identity, we often end up in a maze of made-up possibilities. It is so easy to become whomever we want to become. After all, who will know if we fake it. Right?
You will know. It is exhausting to try and keep up with who you think you should be. It is so draining, that it will surely suck the life out of you. Trying to find your voice and your “true self” is very contradicting, as it is something which forever changes. But, the core of who you are, is ever fixed. You are created with beautiful purpose and clarity. You just have to sit down and find it.
The creative process
In my journey to discover authentic identity, I realized that art (in whichever form) has had an amazing part to play in my identity formation. It is often in the expression of ourselves, that we are able to find ourselves.
I had a talk with a beautiful artist and friend who shared her journey with me.
1) What does art mean to you?
Art to me means something that is created, something that inspires.
I’ve often wondered what value art adds to life. I’ve wondered whether there is any point to making art in this world, when compared to careers in medicine, science, engineering or education. But I’m not the first to contemplate art’s place in the world. CS Lewis said something along the lines of:
“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art, it has no survival value, rather it gives value to survival.”
So, like Lewis, I’ve found how art can inspire, build up, add beauty, spark curiosity and creativity in others, and enrich people’s lives. This is what I believe art should do.
For the artist, like myself, art is also a way to express my thoughts, feelings, ideas and dreams. And while I am very aware that contemporary art is often focused on what is wrong in the world, creating awareness about personal, political and social issues, there is another side to it.
This type of art certainly has its place, but there seems to be a lack of beauty and goodness in contemporary art. As a believer in Jesus, I believe human beings are created in God’s image, and He is shown in the Bible story the first time as the Creator. So, we are sub-creators – created to create – it is built into our very nature. It consequently seems natural to me that when we make art from this understanding, there is no other option but for our art to somehow reflect God’s beauty and goodness.
2) What does art add to your life?
Creating art gives me a place to reflect on and express my thoughts, feelings, dreams, ideas, and imagination in a creative way. It is also a place to reflect on important issues in the world, and to discover what I want to ask or say about these issues. If one engages with the process of art-making, one invariably acquires some skills. These skills include:
- Problem solving
- Trust (that the process will lead to something worthwhile) and sometimes
- Intense self discovery
Then there are also the practical skills each new project or artwork requires, like:
- learning to do video and sound editing
- how to mold wire for sculptures
Art-making is both a comfortable, peaceful place, when you are busy with familiar processes at home or in a studio, but it can also become extremely challenging. In my experience, art has challenged me to move out of my comfort zone to involve friends, family and even the wider community and public in some of my artworks. These experiences were intensely challenging to my introverted personality, but also richly rewarding.
3) How has art helped to form and shape your identity?
I have mentioned how art has expanded my skill set and comfort zone, but it has definitely shaped my identity, or sense of who I am, too.
If I don’t do something creative for a long time, I begin to crave it. Art has become such an intricate part of the way I think of myself and life, that I feel completely lost if I should ever lose the ability or means to create. I’ve noticed that if for some reason I feel dissatisfied with my art or not proud of it, my feeling of self-worth is affected. I’ve spent so much time developing and positioning myself as an artist, I hardly feel equipped to do anything else.
Though I know that my true identity is not in what I can do, but in my position in Christ, which is unchangeable and unshakable, being an artist becomes the frame of reference for my thoughts on life and of the world. However, identifying myself as an artist has also filled my life with wonder. I can be the apprentice of the great Creator, and do what I have been created to do in a way that few people are privileged to experience. Art-making trains the eye to see things that others might miss and, it enables you to find wonder in the smallest things.
4) In what way has art given you a voice?
Art has taken me out of my comfort zone, and continues to do so, into circumstances where I can share my ideas. In a gallery, even on a website or social media, where I exhibit my work, I have a chance to spark an idea in another person’s imagination. I have a way to communicate with people I might otherwise never have come across.
When creating prophetic art, I have a chance to let God minister to people through art, encouraging healing and giving hope. I might not easily walk up to someone and start a conversation (though, through the art-making process I am often challenged to do just that), but through art, I can (in a manner of speaking, which may not be a substitute for a real conversation), have a conversation with my audience.
People viewing my art may even be more open to explore the ideas in the artwork, than speaking about them, when seeing ideas presented in a thought provoking, intriguing or inspirational way.
Not all of us are artists. And even if we are, we might not be as good as someone else. However, that’s not the point. The point is that by expressing ourselves, through art, we might often be surprised at what comes out. And it is in this result of our art, that we are able to discover some small part of who we are.
To view more of Katrien’s art, visit her website here.
To read more on Identity, visit this post.