On one of those lovely Wyoming late afternoons when the temperatures were welcoming, the breezes fluttered the leaves of the trees allowing the sunlight to flicker and sparkle. My nine-year-old granddaughter, Danielle, spiraled around the gathered clan and announced, “I’m a Triple Threat!”
“A triple threat?” I asked. “You are?”
“Yes,” she expounded, “I’m a dancer and an actor and a singer.” Several years of multiple lessons and she was indeed blooming into remarkable performance quality in dance. And Danielle had spent summer weeks at the local community theatre in children’s performance classes. It seems she’s always been able to express herself from the moment we watched her eyes open on the day she was born. That summer day, though, she’d been notified of her acceptance into All City Children’s Choir, a prestigious audition choir in Cheyenne, hence the “Singer” category.
Having announced my own triple threat, I began to examine the concept of creativity in the arts. If Danielle and I are artists in multiple areas, how is that creativity related? Or is it? In February I finished my first manuscript, a creative nonfiction piece about my parents’ first year of marriage. They were separated all but 13 days of that time and I used their hundreds of letters, telegrams, and cards to create a story of that period. When I finished the work, I wept. It felt wonderful—release, euphoria, and a bit of “Oh dear, what do I do now?”
It was like the release and euphoria after the Cheyenne Chamber Singers, in which I sing alto among 36 dedicated vocalists, finished performing Rachmaninoff’s Vespers, the complete work in Russian with a cantor from the Greek Orthodox Church at the pulpit of the magnificent St. Mary’s Cathedral.
It was like the release and euphoria of experiencing a standing ovation as I came forward in the curtain call for Driving Miss Daisy at the Cheyenne Little Theatre. Hmmm,..euphoria, release, endorphins of the highest order. The end result was the same for all three art forms.
There are other similarities as well. I have come to believe that artists all have a homogenous, identifiable goal. That is to create a scene for an audience, something the artist feels about a place and recreates for others to experience.
While touring the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico, I was fortunate to view an exhibit of paintings by O’Keeffe and photography by Ansel Adams. The subjects of both artists originated in Hawaii where on separate occasions O’Keeffe and Adams did contract work on the Big Island. Hung side by side, a similar scene was depicted through the eyes of the artists and we were pulled into them as if familiar with it ourselves. It mattered not a whit that one was a watercolor and one a sepia photo. The effect was immediate and universal. We were there because the artists had taken us there.
As Jason Weiss writes, “It’s an art form and all art is meant to affect the emotions of its viewers or listeners.”
And it does. Art just uses different mediums to convey those effects. In acting, the playwright uses the actor’s voice and body to convey the moment and connect with the audience. In choral performance, the composer gives his music and words to the singer who uses voice and expression to carry the scene into the ears and eyes of the patrons. In writing, the author has only her words. They stand alone. She’s a soloist. And the scenes connect and live in the reader’s mind and heart, sometimes forever.
Everything in creation has its appointed painter or poet and remains in bondage like a princess in the fairy tale ‘til its appropriate liberator comes to set it free.
--Ralph Waldo Emerson
And may it be so.
Judith Schulz retired from teaching high school English in 2008 and began her first creative writing pieces in 2009. Although her major work has been in creative nonfiction, a class with poet Kristin Abraham inspired her to venture into poetry. Subject matter arises easily from her almost 50 years of marriage and the shared raising of four sons. She also remains creatively active in community theater and vocal performing groups and supports art in all its inspiring forms.