I was asked a question the other day that I think was a pretty good one, and one that left me momentarily speechless *(yeah, yeah, I know ... hard to imagine). I liked the question so much that I decided it deserved it's own blog post. The question was, "describe your work in one word." Of course, my mind raced with all the usual clichés and knee-jerk sales-type responses, beautiful, unique, raw, passionate, interesting. Oddly, none of those words, although they certainly have been used by critics and collectors alike, really "summed it up". I paused for a moment, and only one word came to mind, thank goodness it was the perfect word - empowerment. That was it, if I were to describe my work in one word, the theme, what it is all about in a broad sense, that's the word, empowerment.
Let me explain. First, it embodies empowerment, simply by virtue of who painted them, me. What's so special about me, you ask? Nothing, not a damn thing, that's exactly the point. Somehow, some way, the kid from Fredericton, with a stutter, the mediocre student, the loner, the Aspie, the drop out, who grew up to be the guy who couldn't keep a job or a relationship. That guy, through some miracle, was able to pick up a paint brush and find a purpose. It also embodies empowerment because even when that guy found his purpose, he met with ridicule and opposition at every turn. "Stop friggin' around with paint and get a real job," they'd say, "You'll never make a living with art." In both of those instances, that kid, that guy, me, well he had to somehow find his strength and his power to push forward. It's never easy being the odd one out and it's never easy to move ahead against the advice of everyone who knows you. But sometimes you are the odd one and sometimes, no matter how well meaning the advice is, it's the wrong advice for you. And now, I look back, and I think about that kid, and those nay-sayers and about my work and the countries where my paintings hang in countless homes and businesses (the list, for you nay-sayers is as follows: Canada, the US, the UK, Ireland, Portugal, Australia and New Zealand) and let me tell you, I feel pretty empowered.
But it's not just "my" empowerment that my work represents. Painting in general, in fact any form of artistic expression is in itself empowering. Just the act of creating. There's something beautiful in the simple act of creating something, a painting, a sculpture, a song, a poem, it doesn't matter what it is, the simple act of doing it, whether it's good or not, is empowering. It allows a person to express things, thoughts, feelings, emotions, when words just won't do or when you just can't find the words.
Finally, I chose empowerment because it is a word that people have mentioned to me before in relation to my work. Well, the words they generally use is powerful or inspiring, that my work compels them to look, it draws them in and makes them feel good. And hey, if my work can do that, I've done my job.