Collages by Sheena, Queen of the Hallway aka Jo Ann Tunnell Muench

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When I was in art school, I never had to really search my soul for creativity because we were always handed assignments that gave us a range of creative responses. As an apprentice, it was a bit harder to decide on subject matter and how to present it. As a young artist, I had this burning desire to "say something" to the world,but I really didn't know what I wanted to say. And, if I did know what I wanted to say, I didn't always know how to say it in my work. So, I often sat around the studio drinking coffee and waiting for the muse to hit me over the head with a hammer and tell me what to do. My muse didn't work that way. I never had any "aha!" moments while sitting around drinking coffee and waiting for my inspiration. All of my "aha moments!" have come while working through a problem, making mistakes, and trying to turn mistakes into something other than disasters. 

 

Looking back, I see that that's just the way inspiration works for most of us. Despite what people may think, art can be hard work. The inspiration comes from the process itself. No muse whispers in your ear while you are lazing around and waiting for the great idea. The muse is a much harder taskmaster. She whispers in your ear when you are trying to solve problems and searching for ways to make things work. In other words, the muse requires you to work, work, work.

 

Now, I know that the only key to making art is to sit down at my table and start working. It really doesn't matter what I begin working on. I just have to begin. Then, I let my mind wander and I carry on an ongoing dialogue with myself about all the experiences I have had, the symbols that mean something to me, and the muse begins to whisper in my ear. I hate the cliched phrase of "the zone" to describe the creative process, but it is apt. I often find myself in a kind of zen-like state where ideas begin to flow easily and I rush to put them onto paper. Any conversation or interruption can interfere with this zen-like state. Therefore, making art is a terribly lonely business. It's also a business where you have to face your own strengths and weaknesses, your shortcomings, your joys and your sorrow. 

 

I have no clue if other creative types operate like I do. I just have learned what works for me. Sometimes, what appear to be disasterous experiments, suddenly turn into something really creative. I think you have to continually stretch your mind and your thinking processes. You have to always be open to new ideas and new ways of doing things. The worst thing any artist can do is to begin copying themselves. Every piece of art that you create is a springboard for something different. 

 

I am a loner by nature. I am not comfortable with chit chat and cocktail party chatter. I am essentially a very shy person. This does not mean that I don't have strong opinions. I am very opinionated and will spout my opinions when necessary. But, I think I a still somewhat socially inept. I admire people who can mesmerize others with their stories or who have the quick repartee with a stranger. I can only really talk comfortably with those who I know very well and who I love. 

 

I was a misfit from the day I was born nearly 65 years ago. I've never felt like a part of a group. It's always been just me and my few and treasured friends and family. I am sometimes mistaken as being aloof or even snobbish. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am just very, very  shy despite what others may think. That is one reason art is a means of communicating the deeper feelings I have to others. And, sometimes words are inadequate to explain feelings. That is one reason I rely so heavily on the collective unconscious. I believe that we all share certain symbols that evoke the same feelings and emotions across cultural lines. Using those symbols is a kind of shorthand way to reach other people. 

 

Years ago, while working on my Master's degree, I had to read all the great philosophers ideas about what constitues art and beauty. At the time, I thought this was a total waste of time. Why read what Plato said when I could be painting? Like so many things that I thought when I was young, I didn't have enough sense to know how important a solid grounding in the thoughts of great thinkers was. Now, I am so glad I read those books and I'm glad that I became fascinated by existentalism, jungian psychology, symbolism, dada, and surrealism. These concepts have helped form my personal approach to art. 

 

I know I am rambling on. I tend to ramble when I write. Some of my barriers are removed when writing that stand in my way when talking. But, even when I talk, I tend to ramble. I think it's because my mind is set-up to function with a stream of consciousness type of thinking. And, so, it makes sense that the art I create also is very much stream of consciousness. 

 

Ok, I've intellectualized much more than is necessary in this blog. I will go ahead and publish it, but with the proviso that the reader knows that I'm not really a pedant. I'm often rebellious and sometimes a bit subversive. Frankly, I like those qualities in myself. I think it's always a good thing to question "the way things are done" and to want to find new answers to old questions. 


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