Art as Social Lubricant: by Samantha Stiers
I come to BATC in my usual state of panic. But as I enter the cool, airy space, with its tall shelf of mysterious crafts for sale, and see the familiar faces, I know that for two or three hours, I will have some sort of peace. I will have human contact in a way that is comfortable for me.
I begin making art alone, in an empty room, and gradually, enticed by the talk and laughter outside, bring my coloring or my painting into the art room. I lie on the floor, the cool concrete soothing my nerves. No one asks why I am on the floor. They just step over me on their way to get more string or stamps or wax. Art takes things as they are. Art doesn’t judge.
Talking is scary. Why do parties have all that wine and cheese? So we can do something with our mouths other than blurt things so inane they get us banished to social Siberia. Art supplies in an art collective serve the same purpose. It is hard to be anxious while holding a crayon. Squishing some clay or playing deep in some green mohair yarn leaves the rest of my mind free to engage the creative beings around me. The art I am doing is a security blanket that gives my inner toddler the courage to toddle out onto the playground where the other kids are.
When I show my drawings to other people, I am saying: I trust you. I trust you with an intimate part of myself. That wordless moment when I show and they look is a little shy. But when they say something kind, they are saying, I know it is your art/heart I hold. I won’t squish it. That is why art is a social lubricant. When we make art together, we don’t need to struggle to articulate our joys and traumas in words. There is no awkwardness. There is an orange circle, a blossoming tree. They are within and beyond us; they say nothing and everything.
Samantha Stiers has published poetry in the Bitter Oleander, Zeek, and elimae. She is the 2008 recipient of the Frances Locke Memorial Poetry Award and a Best New Poets 2009 nominee. Look for her first published work of fiction in Conjunctions this Fall.