I wanted to tell you about the Wizard of Oz themed gala I attended last weekend, how it was a gorgeous and magical experience, but I got a bit tripped up editing and thinking, “Yes but what’s the point? What am I really trying to say here?” I started telling myself that I don’t know enough about art to have any business writing about it. Forget, of course, that I am an artist, as is my sister, that I grew up in a creative household and have been practicing some form of art at all times for essentially all of my life. I don’t have a degree in it … oh wait. Yes I do. But I don’t have the right degree? In the right kind of art? Whatever. The ways I can come up with to undermine and disqualify myself are too many and nonsensical.
What I want to tell you about the gala is not a whole run down of the event like a magazine review. My intent is not to make you envious but to memorialize a certain magical experience. Okay, and maybe to brag a little bit. I got to wear a red sequin dress. We danced. There was art and champagne and free food and the most gorgeous drag queens I’ve ever seen. We got to tour the studios of resident artists, see works in progress, smell the pure joy of art supplies wafting on the air. It reminded me of when I would visit my sister when she was in art school. The combination of wet clay, oil paints, and the inevitable dust of creativity at work — it’s one of my favorite smells, and I had all but forgotten it. Even though the studios were crowded with both artists and audience, all carrying food and drinks, many perfumed for the occasion, still the dry, earthy smell of art being made got into me. I won’t soon forget it again.
And, my friends, there was a funk band — Jonathan Gilmore & The Experience. They blew my damn mind. I only stopped dancing because I had to pee, and then we got caught up talking to some friends, then stopping for a drink, then considering a last minute bid on the art auction, then being swept up by the drag show … The evening was a truly beautiful experience. I felt as though I’d been temporarily transported into a world where all the people are kind and magical, where Dorothy is a good girl flaunting a bad streak, and even the Wicked Witch is a magnificent queen who just wants to be accepted as her authentic self.
I’m as reluctant to bring this letter back to real-world topics as I was to leave the fantasy world of the gala on Saturday night. Since I failed to purchase any art at the auction (I will come prepared to do so next time), what can I bring back from that night besides a couple selfies? After the weekend, I had a bit of social hangover as I’d spent far more (and more intense) time among strangers than usual. But I keep thinking of the band leader asking us to close our eyes on the dance floor. “Art is magic,” he said. “Just close your eyes and feel it. Let’s see if we can experience a little magic here tonight.”
He was right. Art is magic. Magic is creating your life and your reality. Art is doing it your way, adding sparkles, singing a song about it as you go, living as though life is more than just a series of difficult and terrifying events. We are all too familiar with the difficult and terrifying, and I for one, needed a night of glitter and magic and art. I needed to be surrounded by the smiling faces of diverse strangers. I needed to dance in a room full of people pretending to be in an Emerald City disco. I needed candy in my champagne, a sparkly dress, men in rainbow suits and fluffy Toto costumes. I needed the stunning older woman with her grey hair whipped up on her head like a tornado. I needed the breathtaking art work of the resident artists, to be so close to its creation, and to be in the midst of the living, breathing, walking, talking, singing art of all those people. It was magical to be able to be there.
Over the years, I’ve become the kind of person who likes a lot of privacy and quiet nights at home. But for one night, what I needed was to open myself up to experience the magical flow of people and music and inspiration all in one place. I feel at once washed out from the flood of sensory experience and saturated with the residual creative energy. I need a moment to integrate it. I keep closing my eyes and feeling it again. Art is magic. Go make some.