Monday, May 14, 2012

When Your Art Project Dies

Just before this year's Create in Me retreat, a huge storm system moved through the North Carolina mountains.  Our 2011 community art project returned to its broken state:

Once upon a time, it had looked like this:

And before that, it looked like this, as we filled its plexiglass form with broken bits (the theme of last year's retreat was "broken but beautiful")

I wrote at some length about creating this community art project; that post is here

But we got to the 2012 retreat and found ourselves with a decision to make.  What to do with this art project that had taken on a new form of brokenness?

I was reluctant to do what must be done.  The obvious solution:  to take the creation to the dumpster.  I mourned all those broken bits:

I mourned the way that they had jumbled together into a new and beautiful creation:

I came up with a crazy plan.  Only one side of the cross was broken.  We could somehow get the broken bits back into the cross and seal up the plexiglass with duct tape.  Because only one side would be beautiful, we'd lash it to a tree--and then it wouldn't risk blowing over again!

Even as I said it, I knew that I was trying to preserve what was already gone.  Sometimes, you have to let go of a past project.  Not everything can live/exist forever.  Sometimes, we do more damage to a project by trying to preserve it beyond its lifespan.

It makes me think of my various writing projects.  I've let go of past manuscripts--often, when a new way of collecting poems captures my imagination.  I've put novels in drawers where I expect that they will rest forever.  Some of them will live in a box because they're weak:  I'd like to write mysteries, but my mystery novels read like interview of suspect after interview.  Yes, it's as boring as it sounds.

It's good every so often to re-evaluate.  The trick is not to second guess ourselves too much, not to kill our creative projects prematurely.

Some of us also need to learn to let go, when it's time to let go.  Sometimes, a project can't be redeemed.  It's good to remember it as it was, rather than making it worse by refusing to let go.

1 comment:

Heather Harris said...

Well written, and very thought-provoking! The photos certainly have their unspoken words, too! Thanks for posting this today.
With love, Heather