Life as an Extreme Sport

Creative Destructiveness

I’m sitting on my bed right now, although a quick glance wouldn’t make that obvious. I’ve set aside that last paper I need to write, that take home exam I need to go over one more time before deciding that really is my final answer, and I’ve opened up the boxes of art supplies that have sat in my pantry, untouched for almost two years. A huge shift for me, for someone who incorporated art into classroom assignments (both those I gave as instructor, and turned in as student). But I’ve been feeling that clawing need to end up with hot glue on the tips of my fingers, paint ground into the very pores and lines of my skin, flecks of bronze leaf in my hair and ink or pastels smudged across my face.

So it was with amusement that I read this review, found originally at Jezebel, about the creative destructiveness of woman:

You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs. If you don’t want to starve, a certain ruthlessness becomes necessary. You may not want to own the bloodiness involved in killing, plucking and drawing your own chicken, or butchering your own pig, but you’d probably be prepared to dice onions with a sharp knife and mince parsley. Similarly, if you had a garden or allotment, you’d dutifully hack and slash at weeds and brambles. This sanctioned destructiveness can give the mildest-seeming person great inner satisfaction. No need to come out publicly about one’s sadistic impulses if there is vegetable chopping or shrub pruning to be done. Magically, the angry feelings, channelled through practical technique, loving and attentive, may produce beauty.

That happy result depends, of course, on whether you’ve chosen your work or feel obliged to do it. Perhaps bad cooks and gardeners have too much anger rather than too little. The cook who reduces the vegetables to sludge may be venting her exasperation at having to produce daily meals whether she feels like it or not. The gardener who concretes over the wilderness may be fed up with doing most of the nurturing in the family. Burning the dinner may mean wanting to change the world. Feminists since Mary Wollstonecraft have known this.

The review goes on to say that the book author, Juliet Miller, ties in the idea of sanctioned forms of female creativity, such as motherhood, and the unsanctioned – anything with anger or violence. But the problem is, art is often angry, often violent, often the exploration of a rupture; if women don’t think of anger as feminine, but instead masculine and off limits, they can stifle themselves into silence.

It’s an interesting idea, that she extends into writing, research, and just about everything we do – art is creation, and creation can be found anywhere, from the lab to academic papers. And we stifle ourselves whenever we begin to think that we can’t get angry, we have to play nice, we have to fulfill certain roles and duties. Miller ties to whether or not we look to our ideal woman as being the sexless virgin mother Mary, or the passionately violent creator/destructor Kali. I’m not sure I so precisely buy that stringent a dichotomy, but I do find the idea (as I sit here in a sea of supplies) that we need art, that it is not a hobby, not a luxury, but a necessity.