A year ago I was invited to speak at the opening of an art exhibition of three artists, one of whom was Anna Moraova, my beautiful friend. The room was filled with friends and family, and the love in the space was palpable. It was a gorgeous night, filled with laughter, music, art and celebration.
That night, we had no idea, not even close, that Anna would pass away just seven months later. We were simply filled with light. It was such a beautiful night that Anna mentioned it in hospital, a week before she died. Wasn’t it good? she said. It was.
A year on, I can still remember standing there, speaking, with Anna beside me. Her art all around, our hearts just beaming.
These are the words I said:
The moment you make art, the second it begins, you become a storyteller.
Every mark you make—pen to paper, brush to canvas, camera to your eye—you are telling the story of yourself. You are taking note of who you are, the way you see the world around you, your thoughts, your dreams, and the things you care about. You are saying, “I have a story. I matter. I am here.”
The moment you make art, you are saying your story counts. No matter who sees the marks you make—even if it’s simply your cat, or members of your family, or trusted friends—you are telling the precious tale of yourself.
And it is a beautiful story.
What makes it beautiful?
You make it beautiful. However unusual or raw or ‘imperfect’ your art might be, expressing who you are is beautiful. Expressing what is important to you is beautiful. Allowing what is inside you out—letting go of those pieces you hold inside yourself, laying them out as you choose—is beautiful. Your story is important, like breathing is important. When you make art, you are letting yourself breathe.
Making art is giving light and life to the story of you, and it’s a lot like dancing, and a lot like watching clouds move. It is your own wild and wind-blown thing.
Making art is creation. It is life itself. Yes, it matters that much.
When Anna asked me to speak at the opening of this exhibition, my first thought was, “What an honour.” I have loved and made art all my life; I was raised to always value creativity and personal expression. I passed that love on to my children, and ten years ago, they met and began working with Anna. Anna has mentored my children since before they can remember, and she has become a dear friend to us all. I respect her hugely and am always inspired by her projects and adventures, so I was delighted to be part of this one. And through it, not only do I get to support Anna, but also meet and connect with two other art-makers, two other like-minded souls, two more storytellers. I am very grateful to be involved.
I asked Anna, Paul and Marian about the stories that brought them here today. What a privilege that was! Their stories were fascinating and important, every one of them. I heard stories of illness and obstacle, of journeys into wellness and self-discovery. I heard stories of artistic exploration and experimentation, of raising families and caring for loved ones, of study, deep personal reflection, travel and monumental change. And, very importantly, I heard about art as a spiritual and healing force.
As I listened to Paul, Anna and Marian, I kept hearing all these lovely connections between them, moments where their individual stories became one. Each of them has found solace and healing energy in art. They have been empowered; they have found their voice, and each has felt themselves becoming visible and ‘realised’ through their art.
As Marian and the others spoke and I viewed their work, I actually felt their stories, coming to me as energy. The energy felt like comfort, and wonder, vulnerability and truth. The more I listened and took in their art, the more their energy spread to include me. I became part of it, part of their stories, welcomed.
It felt like a gift.
Art, the moment it is shared, becomes in part about the giving over of the self. It becomes about forming connections: sharing stories, resonating with others, learning from and inspiring others. When we hand our stories over and let them be seen—that bold and brave thing we do when we share our voices— stories become bigger than they began. Art gives life to community.
A community can’t help but grow when art widens to include the watcher. Art is for the artist first, always, but it can also be for the person who sees the art and is moved. Art is for the viewer who says, “I see my own story here.” It is for the viewer who begins to ask questions or is affected emotionally in some way. And it’s for the viewer who says, “Yes, I get it,” and “Thank you.”
Art, when it’s shared, is arms out; it is speaking in a language others are invited to hear. It is a greeting and a welcome. It is an invitation to be part of a story, and to see that we all have story worth telling.
I am extremely grateful to Anna, Paul and Marian, for sharing their stories with me—and now of course, with you. I am grateful they have trusted their stories with us, their community. In doing so, they have shared some of the most important truths about art:
Art is a journey worth taking. It is a journey so unique no path can ever (or should ever) be the same.
Art is a statement. Art says, “I am here. I have a voice. I matter.”
Art has the power to give you your own, pure self back.
Art is strange and broken and bright. It is resonant and alive.
Art is for everyone. We all have marks to make, lines and colours to lay down. We all have a story to share.
Art is breath. It is life, spirit and song.
It is your beautiful story.
(Art in the photo by Anna Moraova)