Keep your day job

by Laura M.

There’s this nifty venue here in Nashville, TN called Cheekwood. It’s an old mansion that’s essentially been converted into an art gallery. The hilly grounds surrounding the manor are host to beautiful gardens (100,000 tulips in the Spring!) and amazing outdoor art installations from the likes of Chihuly, Bruce Munro, and Jaume Plensa (all mind-blowing!).

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Me and the sculpture “Laura” (named after his wife) at the Jaume Plensa installation at Cheekwood in 2015. 

A few months ago, Cheekwood held a pop art exhibit. I don’t know a whole lot about that form of art. I’m familiar with Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s soup can series, Roy Lichenstein’s comic book art…the real mainstream stuff. I walked through the upper gallery, checking out the small collection they had put together, not spending too much time on each piece. That is until I saw a bio on the wall of Corita Kent.

First of all, seeing a woman’s name in the pop art collection made me positively giddy. I wasn’t familiar with any female pop artists. [I’m sure there are more – please excuse my ignorance. I was a toddler at that time and have not studied that genre to know it well.] Second of all, she was a NUN! Sister Mary Corita Kent of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary order in Los Angeles, CA.

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image of Sister Mary Corita from the Corita Art Center

Sister Mary Corita had always been interested in art. She got her undergrad and masters degrees in art and taught art at a college (eventually becoming the chair of the art department.) All the while she made art, predominantly silkscreen, serigraph and printmaking.

Having an interest in social justice and peace, Corita imbued her art with positive messages and affirmations: “Hope is the memory of the future,” “Life is a succession of moments, to live each one is a way of succeeding.” Her political activism eventually led her to leave the church and pursue art full time in Boston.

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image from the Corita Art Center

Depending on your age, you may recognize this piece of art by Corita:

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US Postage stamp 1985

Also in Boston in the 70s…

Psychologist Ellen Langer has spent her highly-respected career researching mindfulness and its applications to our daily lives. Through her research at Harvard University, where she is a professor, she has proven that mindfulness can improve our health, creativity and effectiveness. Jennifer Aniston is even making a movie about her and her work. You know a movement is legit when it makes it to the silver screen. 😉

As it so happens, Dr. Langer loves to paint. She took it up later in life (in her 50s). She’s not necessarily interested in the outcome as much as the experience she has with the process. She just really enjoys painting. Feeling the paintbrush in her hand, how the bristles bend as she presses it onto the canvas, the trail of paint the brush leaves behind…you get the picture.

Dr. Langer’s work is now sold in galleries as she forges ahead with her fascinating research on the human condition.

So why do I talk about these two ladies? Because I find them inspirational. Not just that they found a vocation about which they were/are passionate, but that they also created space in their full lives for creativity. Very much like Dr. Andre Churchwell, the physician/fashion designer/illustrator.

Here in Nashville there are a ton of people pursuing their dream of being a singer or songwriter. 95% do not attain that goal and work a day job in order to support themselves. In the instances of these ladies, their non-artistic occupation wasn’t their backup plan. Isn’t that a cool twist?

Ultimately, what I’m saying is: Creativity doesn’t have to be front and center in a person’s life for it to be valid or merit worthy. It can be a big part of it but not the be all, end all. It’s not like Sister Mary Corita became a nun because she couldn’t hack it as a printmaker. She LOVED her faith. But she also loved art and made room for both. So even if it’s not the main focus of your life, it’s still worth doing.

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