By Lisa K. Salerno, Art Editor and Columnist
Note: This past year I had introduced the work of Charity Janisse as part of my #SupportLivingArtistsIn2016 series. Since then, Charity and I have enjoyed some meaningful exchanges…conversations about art, creativity and life and general. I very much enjoyed her poetry and could relate to much of what she was writing about. Charity recently self-published a book titled “We Are The Artists”. Her beautifully illustrated book of poetry, filled with artist quotes and illustrations (Charity’s own photography and explorations in paint), tells of her own inner journey and also about the gifts of creativity and self-expression.
“We Are The Artists” stems from the author’s own self-observation and reflection, and is filled with anecdotes about being an artist as well as thoughts on living a creative life. After reading, I immediately knew that I would like to interview Charity, simply because I figured that if I could relate to so many of her words, then perhaps many of my fellow creatives could relate as well.
Define “artist”…What does the word “artist” mean to you?
I believe art is an act of creation. It is the rather magical ability to take something that only previously existed in the shape of emotion or thought and to bring it into reality. So, in my mind an artist is someone who transforms ideas and feelings into a tangible, audio or visual experience. An artist is a creator, an inventor, a performer… an artist is someone who knows, appreciates and expresses what moves them. An artist is a communicator, a translator; taking the language of imagination and presenting it in a form that can be perceived by another.
One does not have to have a career in the arts to be an artist. So much of what we do every day is an art form; how we dress, cook, move, work, decorate, communicate, love… it is all art. How are you expressing yourself? Are you expressing your thoughts, ideas or emotions in a perceptible form that can be experienced by another person? Then you are an artist.
‘Meltdown’ by Charity Janisse
You have divided up your book into sections, each a different part of an artist’s journey. Some of this journey includes heartbreak and emotional pain… In your opinion, Does heartbreak and emptiness lead to good art, or is it bliss and joy? Is pain a necessary component to an artist’s development?
For me heartbreak turned out to be an imperative part of my artistic process. It was my sadness that ultimately drove me to write (and share) what I consider to be my very best poetry. A few years ago, I fell in love, crazy love, like love at first sight – cheesy, head over heels movie love, and unfortunately the other person did not feel the same way. I’d never really loved like that and when it didn’t work out I was so overwhelmed by emotion that I had to express it… somehow. In the months after I realized that nothing was going to happen with this person that I love, my hurt and my unexpressed passion became poetry and paintings. The heartbreak and emptiness of unrequited love inspired my best creations and led to the greatest creative breakthrough of my life.
But ultimately, I’m not sure if it was truly my pain and heartbreak that drove me to create art… it is more likely (now that I think about it) the love that moved me to write and paint.
Even though the love brought me pain, if I had not loved first I would not have been driven to write, paint and create the way I did. So perhaps pain is not a necessary component of art, but love most certainly is.
Quotes and photos inside ‘We Are the Artists’
In the book, there is also a wonderful collection of quotes from famous artists and artists throughout history. Do you have a favorite one? What does it mean to you?
I have been inspired by so many artists in my life, past and present. But if I were to choose one favorite it would most certainly be Vincent van Gogh. It is not only the exquisite beauty and powerfully expressive nature of his art that inspires me, but how he lived and who he was. I have struggled all my life with highs and lows that often make me feel as if I’m going a bit crazy. I fluctuate between pinnacles of ecstatic creativity and self-confidence, and desperate moments of crippling self-doubt and despair…Van Gogh has been labeled and judged in so many ways over the years, but I don’t believe he was mad, I just believe he was a profoundly unique artist and person. He saw, felt and expressed above and beyond what many others could. That does not make him mad, it makes him brilliant. And seeing the success that his artwork has acquired long after his death, despite all his struggles, gives me hope…even in those moments where I feel a bit mad, it is my uniqueness, my desperation, my touch of madness and my depth of emotion, that makes me the creative individual that I am…Van Gogh gives me more hope, inspiration and self-confidence than any other artist who ever lived.
Excerpt from poem “I Chased Sunsets and Trains Instead.”
As you know, one of my favorite poems in the book is “I Chased Sunsets and Trains Instead”… There seems to be a recurring theme in your book of art as eternal in a world where all else is impermanent. (Michelangelo has also illustrated this concept in his poetry). This idea continues in your poem “Art Goes On” and reads like a manifesto…Would you like to elaborate on this idea?
Art is timeless. In the moment that I wrote the poem “Art Goes On” I was deeply moved by the idea that art lives on and describes not only the soul of others, but in many ways the day to day lives of people who lived even thousands of years before us. Art is a touch point that we use to understand people from other times, other cultures, other walks of life. Art speaks beyond language, beyond time… beyond the grave. Art teaches us to understand one another. Art expresses love and emotions, pain and suffering in forms that nearly all people can understand in one way or another.
Art connects us all in ways we could never be connected…That is what I was…hoping to convey when I wrote the poem “Art Goes On”, and it is a current of thought that runs through much of my artwork and writing.
We Are The Artists
Connect with Charity Janisse:
We Are The Artists on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/We-Are-Artists-Poetry-Expression-ebook/dp/B01DH7ZLIS
Lisa K. Salerno is an Art Writer with the London-based publication Niji Magazine, and Art Editor and a regular Art Columnist at Inigo Online. Her art and writing has also been featured in the Autism Speaks website, the Artful Vagabond, The Connecticut River Review and in several other online and print publications.