Almost six years have ticked by since Georgia state police raided my house at gunpoint and confiscated, among other things, my laptop computer. While that story continues to be sorted out in the Georgia state courts, I’m without most of my work.
What does it mean for a poet to live with the literal loss of her words? In the big scheme of things, they are just words and I can always write more. However, it’s one thing to throw out your own words, to remove them with the pink eraser at the end of a pencil, to delete them from a computer screen using a cursor, to crumple a hard copy in to a ball and use it for hoops practice at the nearest garbage can. It is different when the choice is no longer yours, when something is taken from you by force. I’d been writing since I was a child, poems and stories, creating characters and histories and futures. Journalism, for a long time, helped me hone my eye and my ear, really see and listen to other people’s stories and understand their life struggles. I’ve always been a shutterbug of sorts, too, informally chronicling events and vistas, my family, things I find interesting or unusual. Much of that was also stored on my computer and is lost now, too.
Two things happened that precipitated my visual art: some friends told me about an artist who had painted a picture every day for a year and posted it publicly; and then others insisted I rent Julie & Julia. I marveled at the artist’s courage to post her work online, her dedication to her art; and I loved Julie Powell’s challenge to make every recipe in Julia Childs’ book in a single year. I had nothing to left to lose, literally, so in June 2011 I began my own art a day challenge. The condition I imposed on myself: something new every day. I could cheat on the drawings and paintings by substituting photographs for them, as long as I took the photographs within that day.
Picture by picture, week by week, I was building myself up again. I spent a few minutes each day doing something that kept me at the margins of the art I had once created with words. My poetry came in handy as I had the pleasure of titling the art I submitted every day. The work evolved from amateur to something I am proud of – I’ve tried out different mediums, from acrylic to water colors to pencil, and I’ve taken photographs of pretty much everything I see around me as I travel or walk or after I drive my kids to soccer practice. The act of making the art was a laser point of focus as I sold our house, packed up our things, said goodbye to my friends and our families, and moved across the country. I completed a second year of the art challenge, and a third, and a fourth. Now I’m about to hit my fifth year of art-a-day. I can’t stop doing the one thing that sustains me, the art, the photographs, the drawings, the poems I have created anew, a new novel I’ve started. I can’t stop because it’s the thing that allows me to forgive the people who played politics with our lives and to move on, be present in the world and see the beauty of life around me.
My #artaday on Instagram: @devislaskar. On the web: devislaskar.com.