Sunday, June 10, 2012

Scratch the surface

Today I was, again, given the opportunity to be grateful that I've grown into a person who got over assuming that I know or understand a person based on their public persona.  Over the past six years I've learned the very distinct differences between being aware of someone in the public arena, meeting them and knowing them.

Let me start with a huge thank-you to all those people who have allowed me a moment with them on the other side of the veil.  Some of you let me open you up like a can of worms.  Believe me when I say that that was never my intention.  We just found a point of trust and you showed me a little of the real you.  I hope I have and will continue to deserve that trust.  "Off the record" actually means something to me.

I'm glad that I am not formally schooled/trained in journalism.  It has allowed me a freedom to do what works for me and not be concerned about if or how "legit press" judges me.  The style I have built is more conversational and seems to put myself and my subjects at ease.  From there, I do my best to convey a better picture of that person to my readers than what they get from a stage, gallery, TV or magazine.  What gets published is, hopefully, enough for readers so learn that these people have things in common with them and are fully dimensional creatures.

Of course I need to take a moment to put a caveat on this.  Just because people choose an occupation that puts them in the public eye, doesn't mean that they want their entire private life out there for scrutiny.  They are not inviting you into their living room for coffee.  In fact, most artists are actually introverts.  One of my favorite experiences is musicians I have met that are commensurate performers on a stage but when they are out of the public view, become very quiet and almost shy.  In fact one in particular comes to mind and this happens to be an artist I actually know.  I know this is my ego getting in the way but I still think I did the best interview ever with him and it was the best because we found a little corner where he could open gently and quietly like a gorgeous flower.  An hour later, on-stage with the rest of the band he became an integral part of what I will always describe as a charisma tsunami.

But here is the point of this post.  Scratch the surface.  America has become a nation of moving too quickly.  People are suffering from entitlement on one hand while accepting low quality goods and information on the other.  Corporations work hard to brainwash the masses into being too fearful to ask for better or gods-forbid, the truth.  We are not encouraged to go beyond eye level except to look up either in awe of people who are not worth the attention or in fear of what will fall from the sky.  But looking beneath the veneer is, possibly, number one on the list of things that are super scary and should be avoided.  This is why sub-par performers, fine artists and writers are making millions and monopolizing the headlines while the really good stuff lingers in the shadows.

I challenge you to first, scratch the surface of what you are being feed as good art.  Turn off the radio, the TV, ignore the magazine rack and steer clear of your local cinema.  Grab a copy of the local free weekly paper and look for neighborhood galleries, small clubs and repertory theaters.  Open your eyes and your ears as you travel in your area.  Oh!  You didn't know that gorgeous mural/street art graced the side of that building?  You hadn't heard that really cool gal who plays guitars and keys then uses computer loops to make crazy good music?  You weren't aware that the guy down the street from you was a goldsmith and has a trunk show going on at a local boutique?  See?....  You're starting to catch on.

Next is the beauty of getting into that part of the arts world.  These artists are passionate.  They love what they do and they'll tell you about it if you ask and then really listen to what they have to say.  I smile at the number of indie artists I've interviewed and because they don't have a manager or a publicist breathing down their neck will talk for twenty, forty-five, sixty minutes or more.  They'll talk as long as you are really listening and asking good questions.  Today, I talked to a street artist for an hour.  We covered every base possible.  I followed my gut and went into this one list of questions.  I just felt like this guy would have a story to tell and I just needed to chill out and let him tell it and tell it he did.  A few weeks ago I sat down with a musician, who six years ago was literally a pretty face and a nice voice to me.  But he's so much more than that.  Again it was intelligent questions and listening.  Most girls still think of him as just a pretty face.  But I've done my part to show them and anyone else who reads my columns, what is inside that pretty head, heart and spirit.

We are all so much more than our high school yearbook photos and quotes.  We all have a story.  We've seen good and bad.  We have something to add to the human tapestry.  We are all a piece of the puzzle.  We need to get past fear, probably the most primitive emotion.  Fear cuts us off from so much.  Not every experience will be happy.  We will cry.  We will be angry.  We will be bored but unless we pull back the curtain, we don't know what's on the other side.  We cannot trust others all the time.  True, it's not a good idea to throw a lit match into a pail of gasoline or jump off the top of a skyscraper without a parachute.  But honestly, there are enough photos and videos of that stuff that you didn't need someone to tell you not to do it.  But when someone tells you to be afraid of another person because they're a different color, follow a different spirit path, make more or less money than you, speak a different language or are of a different sexual orientation when there is no basis for their argument?  That's just stupid.  The same with venturing into the arts.  Just because radio's not spinning it, network TV's not showing it, it's not on the best seller list or it's not hanging in the MoMA doesn't mean it's not good.

I challenge you this week to scratch the surface.  Pick a person, a genre of music, a style of painting, a theme of storytelling, whatever and go deeper.    If someone intrigues you but you've been avoiding them because they're some how "different", say hello.  If they say hi back, strike up a conversation.  Pick your favorite music style and Google it.  Pick a track from an artist you've never listened to before and listen...openly.  Do the same with a genre of fine art.  Google images will introduce you to all kinds of things.  Then see if an artist that "speaks" to you has work on display near you and go see it.  Learn something new about your favorite actor.   The more of the picture is revealed the better judgment you can make.  I'm not saying that you're going to find out that someone with a horrible public persona is actually the Good Witch Glinda in disguise or that you'll suddenly become a die-hard fan of post-modern cubism.  At the end of the day, I don't like asparagus.  I've tried it raw, grilled, steamed.  Still don't like it.  At least I faced my fear.  I can go to my grave saying I tried it.  I respect people who love the stuff.  Good on them.  Doesn't make them any lesser people in my eyes.   Still not going to eat it ever again.  However, I will die being able to have told people what it tastes like, the nuances of different preparations of it along with what it looks like and why it's good for them.


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