Getting To Know You

It occurred to me that while all the pieces I create have detailed narratives, in my 8 plus years of blogging I haven’t voiced the finer points of my own narrative; the story of how I came to be the artist I am, making the work I currently make.

I thought it might be fun to share a bit of personal mythology with you.

As A Child I Was Always Trying To Be Something Else

More often than not I was sampling an animal of one type or another – princesses and pretend mommies held no interest for me. A bit of a tom-boy, I was more likely to hang out with the lads in my ‘hood, catching bugs and looking for snakes out in the field than staying inside and dishing dolls with the girly-girls.

Don’t get me wrong, I had a fair collection of Barbie’s. But if I had the choice between playing primly with my dolls or hand feeding a cricket to a praying mantis, the primal, cricket carnage won out. Every time.

I Have Two Vivid Memories Of Role-Playing

Here are two very distinct, primary school memories of role-playing and the detailed extent to which I took them.

When I was five or six I possessed a long-sleeved, one-piece zip, herringbone-patterned, butt-flap bottomed Dr. Denton pyjama in two-tone green that inspired the budding mantis inside me.

Wearing my pj’s, I would go down to our partly finished basement that functioned as a playroom and I would quietly and patiently manoeuvre in the way I’d watched mantises move: slowly rotating my head, arms crooked and legs bent, swaying gently from side to side. Suddenly I would spot my unsuspecting prey, seize it violently with my spiked forearms, and attack it with my mandibles.

From my How To Be... series, How To Be A Praying Mantis. This series is the most obvious in its allusion to what I like to call identity-renting.

From my How To Be… series, How To Be A Praying Mantis.

Yup, that was me, chewing on a pillow grasped between my hands and forearms, performing very precisely choreographed movements based on what I had obsessively observed.

Performing not in front of an audience, mind you. Just for myself.

[I was an odd kid.]

[I’m still pretty odd…and damn grateful for that.]

I Need To Confess That I Owned A Second Pair Of Dr. Denton’s

Yes, a second pair of herringbone patterned one-piece zip, butt-flap bottomed pyjama. This one was two-tone orange and functioned entirely differently.  In this pajama, I was The Cat.

I had examined the family cat very studiously as he ate. I noted how he would take some dry kibble into his mouth, crunch it with his back molars, eyes slightly squinted, a few broken bits of kibble falling back onto the food plate as he chewed with his mouth open.

My mother, god love her, obliged me when I asked her to set a plate of saltines down on the floor so I could eat my snack like the cat. Which I did.  On all fours.  Very convincingly.  Picking up the crackers with my mouth, I let bits of saltine falling back to the plate as I mimicked Fluffy’s chewing actions, eye-squint and all.

Forty years later, I’m still compulsively trying on what I’m observing in the world and replicating it in obsessive detail. The only thing that has changed is that I’m role-playing with self-made multiples in my studio instead of acting alone in my parents’ basement.

If I would have been an extrovert and less terrified of speaking in public, I might have gone into the theatre and become an actor. As a creative introvert, I studied fine arts and ended up conceiving an art practice where I continue to role-play in a more indirect way – through a growing cast of both 2-D and 3-D characters.

Doing What You’re Inherently Meant To Do

I’ve heard it said that if you want to know what it is you are meant to do in your adult life, look back to what you were choosing to do when you were five years old; that magical time before self-conscious censoring and adolescent awkwardness knocks your confidence and purpose out of you.

It certainly rings true in my case – I knew then what I would be happiest doing.

But I didn’t always stay on the path that I had loved when I was young.  I “grew-up”.  Took divergent routes.  Applied for jobs that didn’t fulfill me (trust me, these were not the roles I wanted to play).  It can take a while to circle back around to what your primary objective is, but turn left enough times and you’ll eventually end up back where you started.

Lucky for me – I’m so thankful I got to return to my role-playing, critically observant self.

What I’m Curious About Right Now Is YOUR Mythology

What were you doing when you were five?  Is your current passion similar to what you were passionate about when you were a child?

Please share your story in the comments below, and don’t dare omit any of the juicy, odd details!

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