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Manifesto for Making Art

My philosophy about art is contained in the notion that in the broadest sense it should be an active part of everyones life and education in order to be a well rounded individual. The diverse acts of creative expression available are so many and of varying degrees of accessibility that my focus has been on what is easily available to any individual regardless of circumstance.

The act of expression in a creative manner is one analogous to keeping a journal or diary in the best sense of the word. To express is to get it out of you and into an objective form that you can then consider. I find that especially in doing this regarding events, feelings and experiences of my own helps me to memorialize and externalize those parts of my existence in a way that allows me to know myself better, to take some of the power out of disturbing experiences and to preserve sometimes those experiences that I want to make a record about in some fashion.

Making art is one of the best and most healing activities that could be made available to inner city children who have backgrounds that have both kept them from considering these activities as well as prevented them from being exposed to the ways other artists have taken on various issues in inventive and original ways.

The idea of “talent” to me, is one that tends to create an exclusivity that marginalizes those who lack the self confidence as well as the opportunity. Talent to a large extent is no more than giving yourself permission to try things without fear of ridicule or fear of doing it “wrong”. Many successful artists in all the various media are not necessarily so imaginative or original, but highly proficient from a technical standard regarding their particular mode of expression. Some of the most wonderful artists are those who ignore the standards and expectations of commerce and society and especially often in the cases of those artists who due to circumstances beyond their control must deal with various kinds of “limitations” due to social, physical or mental factors that set them apart from those in the general population.

In a sense those who have such disadvantages due to physical, psychological or economic deprivation of one sort or another have the advantage of not expecting to be compared to popular or materially successful artists, and that is a freedom often unavailable to those who are churned out of art schools.

I was born with a particular privilege not only due to obvious socio economic factors but more importantly my father was a professional artist (painter and sculptor) who never gave me any feeling that art should be limited to a “hobby” or that it was only for the rich and erudite who seem to often be dominant in mainstream contexts. The agenda of making money was of secondary importance. I was given permission to give myself permission to find, learn, explore and try out any kind of media of expression that appealed to me. So I did.

Part of this privilege was also having ready access due to my parent of being exposed to various and diverse modes of expression I might not have otherwise encountered had my father instead managed a department store, for example. As a consequence of this advantage I have spent my life making art, exploring various media and learning about new artists and ways of art making. I did not have these activities tied to the expectation that I had to be “talented” or that if I could not make money from this activity I should abandon it. Indeed, for much of my life I have supported myself by jobs in other fields as diverse as driving a cab, book binderies, restoring office furniture, a stint at a dot com during the boom in the nineties and working for catering companies, to name a few. I have never considered art making anything less than of primary importance. It is the intellectual, psychological and spiritual aspects of expression that I believe makes my life worth living.

It is a fact that maybe 2% of professional artists fully support themselves exclusively with art they produce. So what? I have been told countless times with out people ever seeing what I make that I “must be talented”, or I must know how to draw really well. In fact I do not think I draw especially well but it has never stopped me and if I have any 'talent' at all, it is for giving myself permission to try something, to see the inherent possibilities in found materials and materials not ordinarily intended for art making by those dedicated to the acts of creative expression and be unconcerned about the opinions of others in this regard.

There have been many times in my life when I was unhappy for one reason or another and it was the making of something that was my anchor, my salvation. It is my belief that those who have the least opportunity to be enriched and exposed are the ones who need and deserve it the most. It is most emphatically a much better use of ones time than dealing drugs or engaging in gang related violence.

Making art is the one pure channel for that impulse of the human spirit to be creative rather than destructive. Making art is a way for all that is good and affirmative in life to take a stand against all that is negative and spirals inexorably toward death and destruction.

Peter Ashlock

March 9, 2010

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