As diverse as the word “art” may be, all the forms of creativity that fall under this broad, expansive umbrella serve one purpose: to tell a story. A recent article in The New York Times Magazine really drives home this idea. The article was about a single man, Shea Hembrey, and his quest to understand what makes art meaningful. He set out to create a biennial exhibit filled with works created by obscure artists: the oddballs and mystics flying under the art world’s radar. The problem was, he couldn’t quite put his finger on how to find these 100 artists, and he didn’t know exactly what he hoped to see when the exhibit was complete. His solution? To create the works of art himself, under the guise of 100 different artists. That’s right: he created 100 different characters, and 100 corresponding works of art. His artists hail from across the globe, are of all ages, and each have a distinct story to tell and styleHe has shared these 100 visions with the world through a catalog and exhibition entitled, “Seek: 100 in 2011.”
Hembrey’s project is a study in the power of storytelling and characters. As Hembrey traveled the world viewing art, he found himself increasingly disillusioned and dissatisfied with the work featured in museums and the artists lauded by critics. Instead of settling for this reality, he used his 100 characters to create the reality he was hoping to find.
Of his characters, Hembrey explained, “I let them live there in my head… I could talk to them if I needed to.”
How does this relate to writing? It’s simple. When you can’t seem to find writing that resonates with you, write that inspiring novel yourself. Use your words to create the writing you want to see, and let each character further your story in his or her own way. Art, whether writing or painting, or even songwriting, should reflect the story you want to tell. And don’t worry about contradicting yourself: we all have 100 unique artists within us. It’s up to you to find and explore them.
Check out Shea speaking about his ambitious project in his TED Talk:
-Mel & Em