This is a photo of my friend Quinn. I have known him since the day he was born, and even before, as his parents (Charles and Susan) are my dearest friends who I spent much time with during the months leading up to Quinn's birth, and after. This artifact, this photograph, is a very powerful thing. It catapulted me to another time and place as I immersed myself in memory, thought, and emotion.
But I digress. That is not why I am posting this picture in today's writing. I post it here because Quinn is one of my greatest teachers of art. He has taught me the most when it comes to my understanding of art, what it is, and how to participate in its creation.
I have never meaningfully or consciously studied art. I don't really even know what a definition of art is. So what I write here is just me "making shit up". For people who who have invested much time in studying art, this will be very amateurish, and maybe even offensive. But it works for me. In fact it shapes how I see the world and participate in it.
When Quinn was 8 or 9 years old he expressed to his parents that he wanted to play the drums. His older brothers were both performing musicians, singing and playing guitar. His mother would sing and play guitar. His father was a lover of music. So for his birthday, or Christmas, he received a drum kit. He took drum lessons. He practiced. He played. Eventually playing drums became a part of his school music experience.
I did not see or hear Quinn playing drums much in his early years, or ever actually. What I saw, and when he really taught me, began a few years later when he 11 or 12 years old. Susan and Charles were not living together at that time.I spent a lot of time visiting with Charles in his one bedroom, small basement apartment. When Quinn would be staying with Charles, and I was visiting, we were all in the same room.
Quinn had made the decision that in addition to playing drums, he would learn how to play guitar. he would bring his guitar with him, and when his hands were free from playing Nintendo, his guitar was always in his lap, and he was playing. He was not playing songs. He was playing sounds. He was learning chords. He was playing transitions from one chord to another. He was picking notes, looking for melodies. And he seemed to be doing it whenever he was not doing something else. He was the embodiment of the intersection of work and play. He was always practicing. As time would pass, I could just observe what was happening, with the sounds that were emerging, with his capacity to move his hands, with his speed.
I have shared Quinn's influence as one of my "art teachers", when Patti and I have traveled around the world.
This is what art is all about. Something that grabs our attention, and invites to come spend time with it; to play with it; to explore what it can do; and discover its constraints; and learn how to work with them; to spend time practicing; and then imagine that you have something to say, or an experience to share, that can have an impact on other people, that can make a difference; that can contribute; and that the contribution will change us.
For me, art is not a thing, it is what goes into making a thing. It is "THE ART" of painting, of music, of writing, of dance, of photography, of comedy, of acting, . And it is "THE ART" of thinking, of science, of hospitality, of organizing, of social change, and so much more.
Art is a way of interacting with the world, a way of participating in creating the world. We get to choose what will be our way.