2016 was a lot of things in excess both at home and in the greater communities to which I belong: too busy, too chaotic, too tragic, at times unbearably loud and fracturing. I felt this all around me, from my work and my own mind, throughout my beloved city, and out into the reaches of this nation and our world. I’ve watched (at times too long or too closely) communities all around me make choices that stomped many of the ideals with which I govern my own conscious. To say 2016 was rough is an understatement.
I’ve been advised not to take the news or politics so personally, but how can I when so many slices of my identity are suffering? I’m a woman, a black person, an immigrant’s child, an environmentalist, a feminist, and an artist and in so many ways 2016 tore us up. On election night I shut off the television, turned off my phone, and went to bed early. The next day began a mourning and questioning phase for not just me, but a huge number of Americans. The year was also marked with the mourning of so many huge public figures.
Back in 2012 when Whitney Houston passed away I felt a massive void knowing no one could step into her place. 2016 claimed Prince, Muhammad Ali, David Bowie, Elie Wiesel, Gwen Ifel and so many other brilliant artists, heroes and thought leaders who opened up more voids. On one hand, what makes someone an icon is the inability for anyone else to fill their shoes, but on the other hand the world has fewer shades of color without them and it can be scary waiting for the next genius to inspire us. 2016 felt like an especially bad year for losing both visionaries and the concept of vision. I feel so lucky to have seen Prince just a month before he died and feeling the music fill that stadium was a highlight of the year.
Sitting at the start of 2017 and looking back I’m both pleased with what I’ve accomplished, and also feeling dissatisfied, restless, stir crazy, and so far behind. In 2016 I tried glassblowing, made new mosaics, and even started teaching workshops which have given me a new kind of satisfaction. Despite those peaks, I’m feeling a familiar itch: the urge to make a change. I have ideas for new pieces, but lack the skills or resources to realize them. I have the urge to clear my schedule, toss out obligations and spend hours creating, but what? What is both possible, and inspiring enough to hold my attention? What is a goal that is both realistic and enough of a stretch? Maybe 2017 is time for a new class, or a new medium with which to create.
I’m going to meditate a little on that old argument about life and art imitating one another as I look for my next inspiration. I think it’s safe to say I’m not alone in feeling these stirrings for change. I know 2016 was not without its victories and emerging champions, for that I’m grateful. Now I see those around me picking back up the badges of activism to carry on the necessary work and I feel like my art will follow the same path. It has to forge ahead, not in the same iteration of itself, but as something new, more awake, and growing ever stronger.