My Artist Statement

artiststatementimages(The artist statement is something I had to write for a grant I applied for. I railed against it, mainly by way of procrastination, but here’s how it eventually, perhaps a bit too passionately, came out.)

ARTIST STATEMENT

Like most people I know, my childhood was regularly awful. I am albino, which means that my skin, hair and eyes are paler than pale and I’m legally blind. This condition complicated social matters, but with a messy home life, I often felt more different and alienated on the inside than I was in outward appearance. I survived my difficult times by reading books. Books entertained and deepened me. Reading took me to other worlds, which paradoxically helped me understand my own life and illuminated what it meant to be human in a more universal way.

Writing is a natural outgrowth of that love of books. I am fascinated with words and their power. In my mind, for as long as I can remember, I’ve associated letters with different colors, so writing feels a little like painting. What most drives my writing though, is my desire to create for other people what books once created for me, a deep connection and the sense that we aren’t so terribly alone in the world. I write to come to terms with life and its fragile splendor, struggle, passion, love, loss, anguish, rage, lust, disappointment and small graces that happen almost accidentally in the midst.

When I was younger, I did this through science-fiction stories and used other world settings to illustrate human life. Occasionally instead of science-fiction I used satire for the same purpose. In college, my focus shifted to literary fiction and a deeper psychological exploration of characters in contemporary settings. In more recent years, that focus shifted again, this time to memoir and essay writing, a passion that continues and grows stronger with age.

I write memoir because if I don’t, experiences and feelings get stuck inside me. I write to understand my own psyche, to connect with other people and with my sense of a bigger, deeper spiritual dimension, to use the landscape of language to capture feelings that are beyond words. My only rule for myself in writing is to be real, raw and ruthless with truth.

Because I can’t see well, I’m a keen observer. I have to hold things close to my eyes to see them, and I pay close attention to details and rely on other ways of seeing that aren’t always tangible. In writing, I do the same kind of close examination of events and emotions, holding them up to the light to study in exquisite detail. I believe that writing and reading memoir is a way for people, collectively, to digest their own lives in a culture that rarely values the time and depth it takes to do that sort of digesting.

My favorite memoir teacher, Janet Thomas, talks about a speech Robert Redford once gave at a summit for filmmakers. He said to them that we are living in a dying world and it’s their job to document that world, capture things before they disappear. I think of that as my job too.

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