My friend Layne introduced me to the Philosopher of Venice Beach, (PoVB) two weeks ago Sunday. It was the craziest church service I had ever attended. Granted it was just the boardwalk and this was not his vocation but all the same he was a pro and a self-proclaimed student of the streets. He was also an artist, a jewelry maker extraordinaire working with found objects, antiques and obsolete items recycled into richly textured pieces of wearable art. Watching his short rough brown fingers deftly twisting copper wire, taking innards of watches, fasteners, coo-coo clock chains, chandelier parts, bits of discarded life and creating something achingly beautiful and unique was transfixing. His pinked half closed possum eyes seeing more than 20/20 was startling at first as he began the chatter of the boardwalk. But chatter is inaccurate because this young man only spoke in truths, mumbled between salty grins, shrugged shoulders making one poignant insight after another all throw away lines for him. As he said all that he knows is just out there in the air, “there is a lot of stuff out there you just have to pick out the truth” and he did.
Layne convinced me that to have him make me a piece of jewelry while we sat with him would make the piece and the day more memorable and she was right. The philosopher happily agreed on a collaboration and pulled over a box wiped it down and I sat down under his umbrella on the boardwalk, Layne nearby. I gave him a dollar amount and free reign on the creation even to the extent of what he made me, whether it was a necklace, ring, earrings or bracelet whatever felt right. So he worked and we talked, or rather listened to this young guy ramble. He talked about work verse art, and the creative process. This is a conversation I have had with Marsue, a lifelong artist, many times about creating product vice art. The film “Exit through the Gift Shop” also deals with this subject in an interesting way. As a side note the boardwalk is filled with Banksy copies and reprints among other artists. What the PoVB said was if he just created product he would be working for a living and not enjoying what he was doing. So he choose to create what feels right, interact with nice people and share a moment in time with them which made it an experience. He shared his thoughts and elicited them from whoever he was chatting with so it was a union, an exchange. All the while answering questions on his jewelry for passer-bys, watching the boardwalk traffic and talking to whoever was in his current orbit about life and what he believes to be true. It was done in a flow that was so smooth it pulled you in and calmed.
We talked about creating art rather than product which puts the focus on the process, the discovery, the mistakes, the ugly and in the end if you are lucky the beautiful and unique. It is the age old worn out saying about the journey being the reward. It is also the journey that makes us frustrated, cranky, frightened and tired. Whether the journey is toward being a better person, creating art, enlightenment, or figuring our life out, it is all the same process. When I focus on the end result, the product, I lose the moment and the learning; I might as well be a robot. To do something with the only goal being giving people what I think they want or want to hear, see, purchase, is an act of fear and manipulation. To create something that inspires me, will inspire others. Furthermore the creative process helps me to understand myself and how I problem solve, react to failure, stress, doubt and so much more. These lessons if you will, directly translate to my actions and the results of them.
My intent is the key, if I intend to grow, to risk, to look at the bits of myself that are twisty and imperfect it does make for a difficult journey but my rewards are matched to the level of commitment to grow and risk. It’s just physics folks, for every action is an opposite and equal reaction. Being willing to embrace what is all of me the good, the bad and the crazy is always a good jumping off point for a journey.
The Philosopher of Venice Beach created a beautiful necklace for me that I love; it’s graceful and strong, rough and sleek. The duality in form is stunning. I almost wore it to bed that night like a child with a new pair of patent leather shoes. I put it next to my bed as a reminder of all the strange, wonderful things I had seen and heard over my few days in LA and to work with what is. Those gnarly bits, those things I want to discard or recycle which in reality are what make me human, interesting and unique. If like the PoVB I work with these things in the creative process of life I appreciate the beauty of what is and build on it instead of ignoring it and working toward perfect. Face it being perfect is boring, beige and just plain bad fiction because it based on a lie.