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Hello, Columbia College Chicago! We made it through the holidays! I want to wish you all a happy and prosperous 2013! I’m so serious. If you look carefully, you’ll notice I used an exclamation point. That totally reads serious. I jumped into the New Year wiping the sweat from my brow and exhaling a huge “phew!”
With 2012 in the rearview mirror, I can be honest. Between finals, holiday shopping, and a Mayan apocalypse, it looked like it might be tough sailing getting there. But we did! :)
Why would I say “tough”? The six weeks after Thanksgiving tends to be the time people turn into lightening rods for stress. Sure, you think you’re sedated. You’ve got Christmas muzak pumping in the stores, stop motion Frosty on every other television channel, and eggnog…rich, creamy, frothy, eggnog. But the music, the snowman, and the ‘nog don’t fill us so much that it keeps the madness from creeping in. Holiday madness drives us to be more than we usually are. It drives us to excellence. And for artists, that can be wonderful, or frightening, or wonderfully frightening.
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So, what wonderfully frightening things have been happening over the last few weeks? The big story first. I watched holiday madness turn my little nephew into a remote control Lego obsessed…kid. (I really need a thesaurus.) His lust for all things “boy” landed him on the naughty list. It wasn’t just the I’m-rebelling-by-being-a-Packers-fan thing. Kids take the holiday season for granted. I think he got caught up in the you-can-do-no-wrong-all-will-be-forgiven myth of the holiday season. This inspired the mad pursuit of excellence from my sister, his mother.
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Her new best friend Dorian, the elf, decided that Santa would skip their house, and he magically took down all the Christmas decorations. The tree, stockings, gifts, even the cheesy dancing Santa…gone! My nephew called it a tragedy, my sister called it artistic parenting. I agree with the latter.
Christmas day came, and what do you think happened? My nephew woke up, ran down the stairs, and found the tree had magically reappeared. Underneath was a single box of COAL! My nephew didn’t cry. He expected this. He knew he had been bad and was now facing the consequences. Artistic parenting taught a seven-year-old something a Wii never could: humility and accountability. A two-fer. Now, don’t fret. A few minutes later, my nephew realized Santa set up another tree in the kitchen with all the gifts, and he got to be spoiled like everyone else. Overall, it was freakin’ awesome!
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After all the warm and fuzzy Christmas action, I took a week to prep for New Year’s Eve. This year, I got creative. Literally. I went to Art and Spirits, a nice little art studio on the north side where I painted champagne glasses (the art) and drank margaritas along the way (the spirits). Although my painting actually got worse as the night progressed, it seemed to look better. It’s some weird New Year’s Doppler effect. It reminded me of what I want from the New Year, what I want for myself. I want to create art. I want it to be natural. I want it to have an immediate emotional impact on those around me.
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There were lessons in the midst of holiday madness. You can’t take anything for granted. My nephew thought he was entitled to the spoils of the season but learned he had to work for them or face the consequences. Don’t we as artists have to work at our craft? Isn’t that why we’re at Columbia College Chicago? Some of the best art comes from the emotion attached to shared experiences. The inspiration comes from the madness.
Holiday madness drives us to be more than we usually are. It drives us to excellence. And for artists, that can be wonderful, or frightening, or wonderfully frightening.