Last night, as I was pushing away the living room furniture to make way for our Christmas tree, I thought to myself, “Why the heck does it smell like someone’s smoking pot?” Then I realized my Advent Wreath was on fire. I would have enclosed a photograph but that would have cost us the dining room table.
I will, however, enclose a photograph from nearly 20 years ago that is the closing image from my show, How to Draw a Nekkid Man. It’s the Christmas card I sent out just as I realized my old life was dying and my new life as an artist was underway. To put the photograph in context, I’ve included the last words from the show.
May the spirit of Christmas fill you with joy in creativity and delight in new life!
Excerpt from How to Draw a Nekkid Man
Before I left (for Ireland), I sent out a Christmas card I made called “Answered Prayer.”
The idea for the card started when I met a bunch of college friends the weekend after Halloween. As I’m packing, I know they are all going to show up with pictures of their children in Halloween costumes. I don’t have children; I have artwork. But I want to be part of the exchange, so I take pictures of my artwork. I toss these rubber and wire sculpture drawings on a white sheet of paper and photograph them and Sarah, my friend who doesn’t want to be the same as everyone else, sees it and says Burt this picture is going to make you famous.
I put the image on my Christmas card.
It’s the first time I’ve ever sent out a Christmas card and I’m using it to announce my new creative life to people who have known me for years, but never as an artist, and certainly not one who drives around with Jesus in the passenger seat of her car. One side of the card is this funky image of 15 rubber and wire sculpture drawings all lined up named “Answered Prayer,” and the other side has scripture that says, “If anyone is in Christ, that one is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold the new has come.”
This throws people a little off.
First, the title and the image don’t match. Second, I’ve paired Jesus with contemporary art. Apparently, some people think God only does landscapes or classical music, but there’s a whole church in California that only plays John Coltrane because they think that’s what God sounds like.
Anyway, people see the Christmas card and say all kinds of things. A dear friend tells me, “I don’t think I’m sophisticated enough to understand it, but I’m looking at it a lot” and it stays on her refrigerator door for months.
My father receives the card and panics, because he has no idea how to talk about the work, but he really wants to be supportive, so he sends me his own version of Answered Prayer, which is a photograph of chicken wing bones lined up in a row – the remnants of an afternoon at Outback Steakhouse.
My brother’s response is my favorite. He says Tricia this card is just too creative for me. If I was going to do a Christmas card, I would photograph five ducks on a pond, and I’d name it five ducks on a pond.
Other people are less generous. They say things like “that doesn’t look like art to me” and “why would you make art when you can make all that money?” Some people don’t say anything. I just have to let those reactions go and realize you take some people with you and you leave some people behind. It’s all about the process. Sometimes the process just doesn’t feel that good.
In the meantime, I’m revising “My Code.” I can’t be a successful artist, much less person, if I’m trying to be good all the time. I’ve just got to be what I’m called to be and apparently I’m called to be different, or at least different than I expected. But I’m not near as scared anymore, because unlike before, I’ve met a lot of people who are different. And you know, they are lovely.
An Opportunity for End of Year Giving
As I look forward to 2014, there are many opportunities on the horizon spawned by the success of last year, including an amazing theater lab experience, a fruitful collaboration with NYC director Mia Rovegno who has transformed the show, and two very successful performances in Nashville with Amy Grant and Vanderbilt University. How to Draw a Nekkid man continues to reach diverse audiences and offers a fresh voice about leading an authentic life, spirituality and women’s issues while deftly crossing gender lines. Touring to venues — while working hard on my memoir and coordinating storytelling appearances — requires a broad base of funding for marketing, travel and operating expenses. Please consider a tax-deductible donation to I Will Be Good Productions to help us continue bringing this story to more audiences who are hungry to be validated and inspired to use their creative voice.
I Will Be Good Productions is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Contributions in behalf of I Will Be Good Productions may be made payable to “Fractured Atlas” and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law. To donate online, please click here.
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