Making my life my art is a lovely goal but one that's sometimes hard to make real. As a child, I was taught that art is somehow different from the rest of life. Painting, sculpting that's art. Baking, gardening at best, that's craft. Banking and sales that's work.
I was never much of a sculptor, even less of a painter, so very early I put away the notion about being an artist. In college I did get into directing plays, hoping that if I couldn't paint pictures, perhaps I could make them by moving real people around on a stage. It helped, but I still had the nagging feeling that the real artists were those with canvas and clay.
I took up photography when I couldn't figure out how to make a living in theater. Through the camera, I found a way to create the visual images that had long been locked inside me. My cameras helped me both to become an artist and to define what an artist is in a whole new way.
Photography led me to John Muir. I began reading Muir when I was graduate student at UCLA. His words showed me that there could be a deeper relationship with nature than what I had experienced. “It was not like taking the veil, no solemn abjuration of the world, I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay till sundown, for going out I found that I was really going in.”
The beauty of Muir’s words led me to Yosemite and eventually to spend eighteen months making a film about his vision. In doing so, I discovered a man who had truly made his life into his art. His drawings, his writings, his speech, the way he hiked the mountains, the way he ran his agribusiness, his political activism; all were done with a creativity, a skillfulness and a passion that raised them to the realm of art. Maybe art wasn't just painting and sculpture; maybe it really could be a part of everything we did.
Ultimately, our life is our greatest canvas; the most importand photo we will ever take. Consciously or uncounsciously, we all make our life, our art. So let's do it consciously, with gratitude and joy and celebration. Our life as art -- let's make it a masterpiece.