Memoir as a Form of Art

It’s an interesting time to write about a mentally challenging point in my life where I connected to art to get through it, because I’ve never relied on art for my mental sanity as much as I do now. Reading an excerpt of Olivia Laing’s ‘The Lonely City’ where she discusses David Wojnarowicz’s work and the ways in which it helped her through a particularly lonely time in her life, I couldn’t help but connect with her words in the same way she describes connecting with his. I was almost in tears while reading that essay because it felt as though everything she was explaining was etched into my own heart and I could feel exactly the way she felt.

Moving to the city was the most unexpectedly emotionally challenging thing I have ever done. I realize now that to think I’d move here without any emotional qualms is ignorant to say the least, but I remember truly believing that I’d get here and immediately be comfortable, grounded, and emotionally stable; none of which ended up being true. While I love New York more than I’ve ever loved a place, it also has challenged me in areas that I never knew existed. I’ve felt lonelier here than I knew I could, even though I’m constantly surrounded by people I like. I feel the least productive I’ve ever been, even though I’ve gotten more things done in the past three weeks I’ve been here than during my whole summer in LA. Things work in an entirely different algorithm here, one that I haven’t been able to make sense of at all. Yet I’ve never felt as strong a connection to artists and the art they make as I do now.

Moving here and falling into a bit of a transitional depression has allowed me to have an entirely new perspective on the art I see. I feel more vulnerable to the emotion an art piece has to show me, and therefore more connected to each artist. Even the art that lies in the humanity of the city, the people I encounter on a daily basis and the marks they leave on their surroundings. I can’t help but think it’s because my loneliness reminds me why art is important to me in the first place. Though it may sound backwards, I’m grateful for the sadness and depth of emotion I feel because it only thrusts me deeper into my work.

Reading Laing’s words, I resonated with the feelings she had and therefore the way she connected to Wojnarowicz’s work. I empathized with both artists through that essay, and was reminded that in loneliness I’m not alone. Laing described loneliness as being hungry, I believe that hunger is what pushes me to discover who I am as an artist and as a person. I’m grateful for it because it forces me to find out what it is that will feed me. It’s the search for whatever resolves this hunger where I know I’ll find what’s most important to me and what will drive my creative process.

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