At the 2008 Motorcycle Expo I met a man who turned my head around when it came to figuring out what art is and when you can call yourself an artist.
Robbin Wenzowski is a chainsaw carver who makes intricate and beautiful works out of hunks of wood. His stuff is incredible and awe-inspiring and most impressive of all, he does it in front of an audience. He had been working on his creations outside last year but moved into the Agriplex because it became so bitterly cold and I struck up a conversation with him about art. I had no idea he was such a wealth of information and insight into something I’ve always seen as a fanciful notion: becoming an artist.
I told Robbin about my painting and how, when I’m doing a piece, I lose myself in it and feel like I’m flying! “That’s it!” he said. “That’s using your creative brain!” I’m actually compelled to paint something I’ve thought of. I feel like I’m DRIVEN to do it. Robbin understood completely because he feels the same way about his carvings. But he also said it wasn’t art unless I “put it out there”. It has to be shared.
One of my goals for this year is to submit my paintings to a juried show and see how they’re received. I’ve been a little wary of opening myself up to criticism. It’s difficult. Everyone’s taste is different. I don’t even like to point to my own paintings in our home because I don’t want anyone to feel obligated to compliment them. I tested the water after last year’s show when I emailed a photo of one of my paintings to Robbin and didn’t hear a peep back. Fortunately my sense of its worth wasn’t tied to his reaction. This year he found me and apologized for not saying anything – his computer had crashed and he lost everything! And, yes, he did like the painting after all.
Robbin is trying to raise money to go to Australia and help with rebuilding following the devastating fires there. He’s an accomplished builder as well as an artist. See for yourself at www.robbinsamazingart.com. And if his carvings make you feel anything, whatever it is, you’re appreciating his art on some level. And that’s all any creative person needs to be able to call themselves an artist.