Reflections on Emotions and Art

canteloupe cubes in a ceramic dish

Recently I was participating in Julie Jordan Scott's 42 Days of Passionate Writing Program. In the lesson where "taste" was the topic, I picked up on "I was completely refreshed when..." as the prompt from which to write. I started thinking about a piece of canteloupe I had enjoyed the day before and I wrote:

"I am completely refreshed when I taste the luscious juiciness of a sweet canteloupe.

Bright orange, though softer than that, in color,
The juicy one glistens with moisture as the bite size cubes I cut
Await patiently the pricking of my fork to pluck them hastily into my mouth.

The cold juicy delight wants to luxuriate momentarily in my mouth,
Then scurry down my throat into my being."

I was quite pleased with what I had written. It FELT good.

A short time later I had the thought, "Why not photograph it and share this experience with my Picture to Ponder subscribers?" and so I got my camera and...50 plus varieties and angles later I looked at the photos on my computer. Even though I captured the "glistening" in some of the shots and the color was there, the feelings and emotions were not!

canteloupe cubes with a fork in a ceramic dish by Sheila Finkelstein

I was then transported back to a time over 35 years ago when I went back to college to complete my bachelor's degree, I switched from being a Sociology Major 8 years earlier to Fine Arts Education in a different school.

The instructor I had for my first art course there said that my art work "lacked emotion" and that I "should drop out of school and join some local Art Guild to satisfy my housewifely ambitions." I immediately latched on to a letter-to-the-editor I had written in relation to a volatile school board situation in our community.

I had written that the candidate for school president was "doing nothing but throwing empty phrases into a burning cauldron of hositility." "Certainly emotional and expressing feelings," I thought. When I got home, I grabbed a masonite board, gessoed it and started painting fire and the cauldron. I glued on wooden matches, tore up fitting words from the newspaper and glued them in the cauldron.

I don't recall the grade I got, if at all. I do know she gave me a "D" for the course as she gave me the "counsel" cited earlier.

Months later I came to the realization that what my montage/collage had done was illustrate the emotion I was attempting to convey. The emotion was in the words I had written and not in the resulting picture. This was an interesting revelation for me because I did not then, nor much now, consciously respond to the emotion in others' pictures or words, not always in my own either.

What I do know is that my work is expressive and does evoke emotions in others, WHEN IT ORIGINATES FROM AN EMOTION OR PASSION that I am FEELING when I take the photo or write the words.

Today's canteloupe is a reflection of that. As I was writing I could taste and feel the experience of the cold, juicy canteloupe. The photos I took were simply an unsuccessful attempt to replicate that.

When you are in the depths of emotions, how do you express yourself? For me, when I am conscious of them I go to words and when I am out and being in the moment, it's my camera. In the past, it's taken form in clay, jewelry and water color painting.

Again, I invite you to look at what works best for you. Capture it. Keep it. Remember to use it , particularly when you are in the midst of an emotional state where this form of expression will best serve you.

As a postscript, for those who are still wondering. I did drop out of college for a semester and then went back, feeling I did not need to be a fine artist to be able to teach it. I went on to complete my Master's Degree in Creative Arts Education. When my teaching position was eliminated due to decline in enrollment, both parents and teachers wrote their letters to the editor and letters to that very same School Board, about which I had so passionately written 8 or 9 years earlier.

Thank you for the privilege of sharing with you my writing and my thoughts on these impactful experiences.

©2005 - Sheila Finkelstein

To hear me reading this ARTICLE, click on the arrow button below. The double bars in the center will pause the recording and the solid square on the right ends it. This particular reading is four and a half minutes in length

©2004 - 2006 - Sheila Finkelstein - eTeletours is a division of Nature's Playground

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Last Updated 7/15/06