10/06/2021 Thinking Outside the Box   Leave a comment

Thinking outside the box is a rarity these days. Some people do it automatically in everything they do and are called, weird, odd, strange and a host of other not so nice descriptions. Unfortunately the great majority of people that are truly out-there are artists and creative types. In order to create something that people will pay attention to you must be out-there. I’ve been lucky enough to be labeled out-there since I was seven or eight years old by my parents and friends alike. That to me has always been a badge of honor and always will be.

People continuously use the word weird for those of us who are strange, little off center, or just plain different in our way of thinking. I’ve been called much worse by many people over the years due to my unusual approach to the art I create. I understand that some people are offended by that description but I never was. I’m a firm believer that if you walk by any of my projects and didn’t stop for a second look, I wasn’t getting the job done.

Many years ago I created a piece called “Death Penalty”, and it was displayed in a museum art show. To my great surprise it actually won an Honorable Mention award from the judges. I created a miniature electric chair with all the bells and whistles of a real one. It sat upon a base covered in a collage of death penalty photos and newspaper articles which made quite the graphic statement about the death penalty, both pro and con.

I stood on a raised stage nearby drinking coffee and watching the main floor of the exhibit. People were milling around but I was more interested in those looking at my piece. It drew quite a crowd and a lot of discussions were occurring. I mingled among the crowd anonymously listening to comments and the numerous and varied conversations. The consensus of opinion was that the artist was a little weird and totally off-the-wall. I was absolutely thrilled. That meant even more to me than the Honorable Mention award. I was later approached by the father of a young Goth girl who attempted to buy the chair for her Christmas present. I didn’t have the heart to sell it and I kept that chair for many years before it eventually fell apart during one of my many moves. I’ve always had a hard time selling my art after putting so much effort into producing it. It’s like losing a child.

Now let’s drop back few decades to my days in college. I was inspired by a fellow student after being requested to do some sort of display that would sell a fictional product. This was a commercial art class and a required subject which I truly detested. I thought it was too blatantly commercial and I complained to everyone. A fellow student on the day of the final review took me aside and said “your taking this stuff way too seriously”. He took me into another room and under a sheet on the table showed me his final project. He’d set up a place-setting with a knife, fork, spoon, lacy napkins, and a half filled bottle of Coke. Directly behind the place-setting was a a faux campfire. Over this fire he’d placed a headless baby doll on a spit. He spray painted the doll with a reddish paint to make it look roasted. I was a little shocked at first until he uncovered the last part of his project. He pulled the the sheet away to show me a large, round, red, Coca-Cola sign. It simply stated “Things Go Better With Coke”. I was blown away and thrilled to have met someone who was truly out-there. All these years later I still remember him, the piece, and the attitude it took to make it. I also remember that he got an “A” on the project and I didn’t. I’m carrying on his philosophy as best I can to this day.

If you’re a creative type and I hope you are, don’t let people put you in a box. It’s been my experience that the further out-of-the-box you can take yourself the better your work will be. There are way too many people spending way too much time being critical of virtually everything. To be an artist, poet, or writer is to put your creations “out there” for public viewing. It’s the most rewarding risk you can take.

STAY TRUE TO YOURSELF

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