About Me

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Born in the US, raised on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, lived in Italy, the US, and Canada. Lover of language, travel, colour, and the natural world.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Artist resurfacing

Painting by Ariana Salvo, 2004
 I am sitting here in the kitchen after midnight painting. I am trying to make some progress with this collective journal that will be spending the next year in the excellent company of some truly sensational ladies around the globe. After a day spent attempting to consolidate student loans, I decided it was time for some fun creative play. So I went in my bedroom and cracked out all my art materials.

Art has been a part of my life since before I was crawling. I have been painting and drawing since I was born because my mother is an artist and art therapist, so she has been putting sheets of paper, and anything else that I could possibly paint or draw on (including her own mother, who I went to work on and turned into quite a masterpiece) in front of me since day one.  My life has always been steeped in colour.

Painting my obliging grandmother's face as a child (with other artistic creations on walls in background)
In high school art was one of my favourite classes. Wanting desperately to not be an artist in a family of so many artists we did not know what to do with them all, I applied to college to do pre-med. I wanted to be a doctor. Medicine sounded practical, reliable and lucrative -- all things that I felt were lacking in my family. Looking back on it now, I have no idea what I was thinking, really. I was awful at math, and although I loved learning about living things, I spent most of my biology classes writing poetry about the bird that was building a nest in the tree outside, instead of focusing on learning the diagrams and processes that were in the text book in front of me. I might have excelled in a more progressive biology class, but in a traditional system, I really had no hope of ever succeeding. I made it through one year of science and math before realizing that the only class I actually enjoyed was my ceramics class. I loved being in the art studio so much that I would go in early in the morning, and stay until late at night building hand-coiled pots and cups, sketching, and glazing my pots.

A still life I did in the ceramics studio while in my freshman year of university, 1995.

Ariana Salvo, 1995. Pomegranate sculpted out of clay and hand painted.
At the end of that rather disastrous year (academically speaking), I applied to art school, and got in. But for some reason, I ended up not going. Instead I moved back home to Cyprus for a while, and took a dance class and a graphic design class. Then I moved to Italy, planning on studying Italian language, connecting with my roots, and then applying to art school in Italy. I did the language part, but then I discovered Prescott College, and ended up focusing on environmental studies. Fortunately I had the sense to couple that with poetry, because although my plan was to apply to law school and study environmental law (I did apply for and get into law school, but...you guessed it...I never went), my forte was, and still is, in the arts.

It has been a long time since I have painted or drawn. My mother's walls are covered in paintings and drawings that I did years ago, but for some reason I have always turned away from putting all of my eggs into my creative basket. Maybe it is just my stubbornness. Maybe I do not want to have to compete with an exceptional visual artist mother and a father who is an incredible musician. I am not sure. Or maybe somewhere in me I am afraid of failing. Of not being good enough.

So many people who have made art with me or taught me art over the years always shake their head when I admit I have not been doing much lately. My high school art teacher, who is still a close friend, always tells me it is "such a waste," in his British accent, which truly does make it sound tragic in a way that an American accent never could. :-) 

So opening up boxes of oil and chalk pastels, water colours, oils, acrylics, sticks of charcoal, fine ink drawing pens, coloured pencils, and all the other amazing art materials I have managed to stash in my cupboard, is a bit of a trip to the past. When I open my two boxes of chalk pastels, the smell makes nostalgia rise quickly to the surface. The last time I did anything serious with them was in 1998. I love drawing with chalk pastels.

I have had a super night drawing and painting at the kitchen table. I used my chalk pastels. I used my water colours. I used my black ink drawing pens. My January contribution to the journal is quickly becoming saturated with bright colours and textures. With poetry and prayers. With quotes and reflections. I am having a really, really good time.

All the artwork tonight is also making me realize how much I miss all of this. Miss having hands and arms stained with paint and ink. Miss looking in the bathroom mirror to find that I have had purple chalk pastel smudged across my cheek all night, which my parents kindly did not mention. Miss the glass of greenish-blue water on the table, and washing my paintbrushes out in the sink. I am thinking that it may be time to finally give it up, and allow my visual art to become an integral part of my life once and for all. 

Do you have parts of yourself that you have turned away from, again and again, without really asking yourself why you keep turning away? Maybe it is time to unpack the suitcases bulging with whatever it is that you keep stored away...bring that part back to life. Shed a little daylight on it. A friend of mine recently told me that I must, surely, after all these years of writing, have enough poems to compile them in a book. He is right. I do. The same goes for my visual art. I read in the book The Invitation, that we need to stop asking ourselves why we so rarely are the person that we want to be, and start asking ourselves why we so rarely want to be the person that we really are. I feel like my experience tonight has been another re-surfacing of who I am. I do not want this part to be submerged again.

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