Commanding Space

Someone asked me in an interview last week what was my first interaction with art. Believe it or not, the answer is pretty clear cut, depending on what we classify as art. I was about 3 or 4 years on the planet. I ‘d gotten in trouble as I remember, for writing or drawing on something. I was the only child still home as I hadn’t started school yet. Based on our age proximity, my Mother had to be carrying my little sister at the time. It seems like the weather was warm because I recall the front door being open and light coming in. She sat me in a corner and before I knew it, I was in a double jeopardy situation. Apparently I found another crayon or something and drew on the corner walls where I sat. I vaguely remember and recall with some artistic license, the call of that wall- the empowering feeling of the tool hitting that surface. The space stretched out before me beckoning for mark making by my little hands. And marking I did. Something triggered in my brain, stimulating a part of my subconscious that was awakened thence and forevermore. I have no idea what I drew or how much but it was enough to set me on a path and my mother off again. And she was pregnant too! I don’t remember what happened after that. Probably for good reason.

That was my first recalled foray of claiming space by way of artistic mark making. The idea of setting images or marks apart from myself that remained in the space when I walked away was fascinating beyond my a ability to cease such action. I can create my life map connecting the dots with such occurrences over the course of my days. No, I wasn’t the kid who went around spray painting people’s houses and places of business. Although I did leave some natural clay sculptures on the banks of a few rivers. During those early years I was fairly legal in my claiming of space. My dad didn’t play that getting in trouble outside the house kind of stuff. I’m not even sure if the call of the arts could have been heard over my wailing had he caught wind of me vandalizing something. Mine was relegated to teacher appointed bulletin boards in school, and desks. I loved drawing on desks and retuning to see the comments about my art. I drew in middle school and traded art to the bullies in exchange for leaving me unruffled. In high school, my group of arties would trace our contorted bodies in creative chalk outline drawings on the carpeted floor upstairs between the art department and the band room. Like nobody could figure out it was us. We were never called on it for some reason. I loved the adrenaline rush and wielding of artistic effectuation. To hear people talking about the work and knowing it was done by my hand from my mind, felt like a superpower.

Over the years, I adopted multiple methods of plying my craft. All incorporating the claiming of space for aesthetic effectuation. One if them is still not technically legal so I’ll only hint at that one, compare it to Bruce Wayne and Batman, and carry on. Legally and usually by contract, I sling paint on walls as a muralist. Yes, that was in the cards too or the not so crystal ball. My high school art teacher told me my first year after graduation while sharing with her my first freshman year paintings, that my work looked like it should be huge; murals. She compared my work and acumen to Diego Rivera. I had no idea who Diego Rivera was at the time and definitely had no conscious interest in murals, whatever they were. Turns out she was a prophet in more ways than one. She told me of my potential for success as an artist and saw the murals in me before I could see them in myself. Over the years, I’ve had to fight for my place at the creative table. Fight against legislation, gatekeepers, creative ignorance, misunderstandings about art, doubting friends and family, and perhaps most of all, my own sometimes hyper skeptical mind that used to drill me with the nagging question, “You think you can really make a living at this?”

I remember people saying yeah whatever when I would talk about being a world renown artist. And you know what – I whatevered and remain in continuance mode of claiming spaces for art. In late 2020 I sat in a meeting listening to city leaders talk about one of the new business/government ventures coming to the city. They talked about the number of jobs it would create, families it would support and bring in, and the economic boost and prestige it would provide. This was major. It was called Space Command. For a minute I thought I was in a meeting aboard the Starship Enterprise. I was sitting there feeling pretty left out as an artist. Where could I fit into this? Hell, beam me up too, Scottie! I went home that night thinking about the unfolding of the evening and how the engineering, space exploration industry was the new king cotton of the south. I didn’t see how I could benefit from it as a right brain operator. Then it hit me. I’ve been on the other side of that coin for a long time. Talk about space, you talk about my realm. I’d been claiming space since before I could spell it. Ask my Mama. That night I wrote down the title of my memoir and fleshed out Commanding Space. It’s a united federation of creative minds. A collective force of creative wills at work. I determined that we, as creatives will not be left out of this thrust into the joy of our future. We are willing to boldly go where no man has gone before. I hear you Sun Ra. Space Is The Place, in more ways that one.

One thought on “Commanding Space”

  1. Good one. As a land artist, I always say my art is creating space, in my home and especially in my gardens and on my land. I believe creating Space can take many forms; sometimes in your head so peace and gratitude can freely slow. Thank you for the space you create bro. John.


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