Sunday, December 5, 2010

Art and family

I am not a black Delta blues and reggae phenom. But maybe I am Corey Harris. I don't have his talent or guitars or dreads or cap, but I found out how I am like Corey Harris on Friday at the NightCat, when his five year-old daughter was there with him.

He ordered her a bagel, got her set up with a movie on a laptop and proceeded to transform the house into some club on the Mississippi Delta with a timeless voice and virtuoso finger picking. He is a singular talent. But like those of us with young kids, before every song his eyes found her and made sure she was okay, then he closed them and transformed himself and all of us.

Funny I've been thinking about art and family of late. And how some people who take themselves to be serious artists or writers or musicians will spurn the idea of family or kids in order to focus on/dedicate themselves to their art. Their is some validity to the idea that when you own (or don't have to share) the hours in your day, you can devote more time to studying, creating. Sometimes a quiet evening, free of homework, or a Saturday morning with no soccer or field hockey, where you can go sit in a coffee house or museum, or people watch on a street, would be pretty sweet.

But for me, art or creativity springs from the messy parts, the jumble, the connections, which are sometimes tangled, sometimes free-flowing. My perception and perspective are re-shaped through how our girls see the world and how their words, their ideas and concepts, their humor changes. And how I react to it all.

The discipline to make sure creative time doesn't simply live on the edges of the day, but has it's time to percolate and time to drink deeply off of it, there's a challenge there. For me the answer is often get up early; make that time when everyone is sleeping. With a 90-minute drive to and from work, I often have ideas gel or start from a lyric from The Roots or The White Stripes, or a riff, or a nugget from NPR, or the improvisation of a Robert Glasper.

There isn't a choice between art and family because they are both co-mingling, swirling through the funnel of my experience to hopefully turn into something worthwhile, creatively speaking. Then again, that existential creativity of having a hand in the people the girls are becoming, the person Robin is, the dingbat that I am and am becoming; there is something to be said for that kind of fruitful creativity as well.

I can't speak for Corey Harris, whose music and vibe and daughter are all beautiful and seem interconnected. But I can relate when I see her come up to him on stage to be with her dad and how I feel when Anna or Ava bring notebook or art pad and crayons and spark their own creativity, and how they feed mine.

1 comment:

basiltydings said...

Great words, Mike! Francis Ford Coppola had similar thoughts to what you wrote about when he was a blossoming filmmaker (as a writer and director). He thought that he wanted to remain single as he tried to "make it." But then he got married and had child #1 on the way. The pressure of being a provider fueled his creativity and little movies like "Patton" and "The Godfather" are the result of the struggle. He talks about this on one of the DVDs of some re-release package. Thank you for sharing these thoughts!!