Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Status Quo

When is change necessary and at what point is it just to facilitate the status quo?

Yesterday, my daughter mentioned that she missed the freedom of riding her bike around our Montana town. Its not that she is unhappy so much as she is just missing a bit of self-determination from a bygone moment in her life. Sometimes I wonder if we shouldn’t all miss our liberty a bit more.

Her comment reminded me of how I felt years ago in Missouri, when my parents moved the family from our modest home a few blocks from my elementary school to the much classier subdivision ten miles north of town. I was the same age as my daughter and the child of a teacher while my closest friends were mostly doctors’ kids, a fact that intimidated my folks whenever I had friends visit. However, I liked the little house my father had bought for a song (less than $20k, if I recall), then gutted and rebuilt to make comfortable for our brood. We had a large yard, kind though simple neighbors and easy access via means of kid transportation (bicycle) to all the places that made being young great (the drug store for comic books and candy, the school for the playground, etc). Simple living, though, must always make room for change, so with visions of grandeur my parents moved the family to a larger nicer home that removed too many opportunities for trouble, such as white chat roads that prevented much of the traditional manners of youth travel – like bikes and skateboards. Ironically, I care more about the loss now, than I did then; life can change quickly for a kid, but something about youth seems to make rolling with it, effortless.

My wife has a similar bond to the farm house experiences of her youth. At the age eleven, her family moved uptown, as well, leaving the farm-life and its child-envisioned freedoms behind. I know our parents had all the best intentions when they moved for the sake of their children; as did I when I relocated my daughter from that slow-moving high plateau near the Canadian border to the much classier high desert coolness of New Mexico. I saw the change as placing her into a better elementary school in a chic section of town, but she saw it for what it really was – moving to a place where being a kid was no longer such a simple task.

Growth and change are necessary in art, but occasionally the purpose of one can mislead the other. Occasionally, we require protection from our protectors when too much safety can feel claustrophobic and what we need most in life is a touch of trouble in order to build the soul. At what point, though, can an artist step outside of their comfort zone to experience the artistic style of the region without becoming a charlatan? When can that same artist refuse the change and simply utilize the region itself to glean inspiration without falsely-embracing popular culture? Most importantly, though, when does environment no longer matter and the artist can ignore the status quo and simply encompass the nature of the label without becoming labeled? - DN

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