Marginalia, Graduate Blog

Back to Basics: Learning to Relax

Mike St. John

Fig. 5.1: Relaxation

Fig. 5.1: Relaxation

My last few blog posts covered the overwhelming energy of the MFA exhibition and graduation from Columbia. As a Graduate Ambassador now in a post-Graduate situation, what can I offer you, Prospective Student, in terms of insight about school? Glad you asked (…it had to have been on your mind, right?). In a word: perspective. The only way to see with new eyes is to step back from what you have myopically scrutinized for so long. I did more than step away, though — I left.

Out on the Water

Out on the Water

I had another life before Columbia and Chicago. It’s true. I used to live in Miami, Florida (…apologies to Ohio, but the real Miami). I am a born Midwesterner, and I knew this life in South Florida was a temporary one from the get-go. However, the end of my three awesome–and intense–years in Chicago had me longing for the place I left behind. I needed to visit my old stomping grounds and figure out my life again.

Miami

Miami

The most important aspect of that life is family (…go on, cue the Awww track). No matter how you slice it, those you’re related to are the ones that will be with you through everything. At school, you are working, writing papers, attending lectures, and so focused on becoming an educated super art-maker that maybe those familial connections loosen a little bit. If that’s the case, summer is the season to tighten those bonds again.

In my case, my cousin Isabela traveled with me. She just turned fifteen, plays drums, and has a wicked sense of humor.

(Yes, this has turned into a family vacation slideshow. Enjoy it.)

Sheriff + Armadillo = Sheriffdillo

Sheriff + Armadillo = Sheriffdillo

Life is uncertain and strange. This idea seemed to slip my mind with the daily rigor and regularity of graduate school. Or, maybe better, the idea smooths itself into commonplace when one is in graduate school for art. We take the strange for granted.

With Bela, the strangeness heightens again. We are eleven years apart in age, and many of her teenage ways — to my chagrin — baffle me. This is good. It’s the pins-and-needles feeling of a hand waking up: uncomfortable, unnerving, cathartic. I needed to wake up to the greater world outside of the studio, the library, and even downtown Chicago. There is a time to work, and there is a time to encounter bizarre sights such as an enormous inflatable armadillo (pictured above). The former needs to give way for the latter; the latter feeds into the former.

At Hogsmeade (in Universal Studios)

At Hogsmeade (in Universal Studios)

A Miami friend and collaborator of mine have a saying for this cycle: filling the well. The well is your creative reservoir, the place you go to draw inspiration and energy to make what you’re compelled to make. It is you, your identity, in its rawest form. In order to keep the well filled, we must go out and experience the world away from making. It is essential and, sometimes, counterintuitive.

Drop your tools and pack your bags. Escape. Get lost.

Relax.

It’s what I did, and it’s creating a calm in myself that I haven’t felt in a long time. I have a new perspective on my creative life by leaving it for loved ones in a different place.

My advice? Enjoy the random. Enjoy the summer. The work will come soon enough, and with a clarity of purpose that will get you moving again. Until then, fill the well and live.

Life Complete

Life Complete

Back to Basics: Learning to Relax

My last few blog posts covered the overwhelming energy of the MFA exhibition and graduation from Columbia. As a Graduate Ambassador now in a post-Graduate situation, what can I offer …

Interdisciplinary Arts & Media MFA Mike St. John, chadrikosuave@aol.com
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605