by Carla Aaron-Lopez
“Kevin just snapped,” said Corey. And he did.
One year, his drawings looked a certain way and the next year they were on another level. They took on their own whimsical nature unlike the controlled squiggles that Kevin was known for drawing. His color palette no longer looked like someone studying color but of a man that had created his own world and the colors informed the mood of the characters that inhabited this make-believe space. I was blown away by someone that I felt had potential but wasn’t sure where he was going with all that. Half of the time I don’t even know where I’m going.
I had this conversation about Kevin with Corey, an artist friend of mine, a few years ago before I left Atlanta. Corey is another person that also snapped when it came to his art. It is his series of female portraits that are just striking. At the time, I didn’t really understand the ramifications of Corey’s statement about Kevin or what it meant to truly snap artistically. Years later on a spontaneous trip back to Atlanta, I saw one of Kevin’s newest public art murals and began to understand the power of snapping as an artist.
As much as I’ve studied art, there is a legit moment when the artist snaps. The work changes and evolves to an actual visual statement versus a singular creative object. Hobbyists make creative objects. Artists make visual statements that force viewers to think and see the world differently . As cliched as it is to use Picasso as an example, he snapped the day he walked into a museum, saw some African masks and changed the direction of Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. That same painting changed the entire direction and nature of modern art in the late 20th century. Picasso makes art history and we all know the rest of the story from there.
What went through his head the moment he saw those masks? We can speculate but we weren’t there nor can we go back in time to have a Being John Malkovich moment and crawl into his mind to see what he really thought.
We just know that it was at that moment, he snapped.
Honestly, I’m waiting for my moment to snap. I’m in awe and envy of my friends that have had their moment. I want to evolve but I have let fear get in the way. Fear of not making something mind-numbingly great. Fear of not hitting the black intellectual nail on the head. Fear of getting fired for making super controversial feminist (yes, I’ve finally admitted that I am a feminist) work because I’m a middle school art teacher and the list goes on. It’s these types of fears that keep me from progressing the way I would like to as an artist and I don’t know when or how I’m going to get rid of them. I’m on the side of my proverbial mountaintop but scared to continue.
Eventually, I’m going to snap too. Or just be stuck in waiting until I quit making art.
I look up to many artists that have all had that moment somewhere in their career. Sadly, majority of them are men due to the art world’s lack of compassion for all women artists. Even more sadly is that if those same women artists have never had children and it wasn’t because of a biological reason (see Frida Kahlo), I lack total respect for them. My life doesn’t align with theirs. They will never understand the beauty and harsh reality of motherhood. They will never understand the intense paranoia of doing something that could possibly take food off your table and clothes off your child’s back. Face the facts, I live in the South and Southerners don’t do controversy very well. That’s a reality for me while others can get away with it. I stand in the wings of life’s grand stage secretly applauding their controversial actions.
I’ve lacked in producing any work this past year because I’ve finally achieved the goal of getting my career as an educator and financial life together. Not only have I been concerned with making my art but seriously, how was I going to pay for this? How were supplies going to get into my home? These priorities force me to think and see art differently. Encounter new ways of executing old ideas. Boldly steal concepts from my favorite artists and force them into my fold. I figured out a long time ago that if I wanted to make the bold, controversial art, I needed for it to be large, attention-getting and everything that I feel I cannot be in public.
I want the work to be disgusting and unladylike. I want to do it under a pen name of a white man and totally fuck with the perception of gender and power because why not? White men rule the art world. I want the work to have everything that you hate in it. Pictures of outer space and shit. Big, fat ass strippers because why not? Throw in little nods to slavery and the black experience here and there because black and white people love that shit.
Maybe I have snapped and I don’t know it yet.
Maybe I’m fantasizing again.
Or maybe I’m bored and unchallenged because I am a middle school art teacher who spends nothing but time sharpening my foundational sword.
There’s only so much I can do right now in this moment.
– Ms. Lopez