During the past week, as I've been making ATCs and art quilts and doing photography at a fiftieth wedding anniversary, and painting and writing and making collages, I seem also to have been doing some deep thinking. For some reason, at forty-two, I seem to be circling around and around this topic of originality--perhaps because I've been struggling with a sort of minor artist's block? Or perhaps because I'm at some kind of turning point in my work? I don't know, but it's definitely been on my mind--both originality and its evil twin, cliche.
As a small child, being original never crossed my mind. By virtue of simply being a child, everything I did was original. Even when I tried to play the same made-up story as the day before, it changed and morphed and became something totally new... As far as other people went--when I loved a book, I wanted the author (or someone!) to write another book just like it, right away... When I loved a picture of a horse, I would gladly have looked at forty more, just like it. As a little girl, originality in myself or other people was never an issue.
Of course, by the time I reached junior high school I had become a good little people-pleasing conformist. If the teacher wanted something done a certain way, I did it to the nth degree. Conformity and hard work, combined, makes for immense success in the public school system.
In college and while I was teaching, I saw so many young people who desperately wanted to be different--and to satisfy that craving, they dressed and coifed themselves in outlandish ways--just like twenty of their closest friends did... It struck me then (and still does) that in our society, we somehow miss the whole meaning and intent of originality.