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Artist Statement

When I first started writing an artist statement in 2000, I was frequently reminded of a misconception I had earlier about birds and the idea that they sing merely for pleasure or joy. Rarely did I contemplate the consciousness of bird—outside of appreciating the aesthetics they offered—until I encountered several behavior studies that indicated how birds sing primarily to establish territory and not for mere aesthetic wonder. I still grin at how this curiously synchronistic revelation occurred during this most difficult process of defining myself and my art. Not entirely unlike the birds, the songs that my work sings also mark a personal territory, years later…still.

In Australia, Aborigines use song as a means to travel successfully over the vast distances of their continent instead of the traditional two-dimensional diagrams on paper (maps). And like our feathered friends, each Aborigine has a song that marks the territory occupied by their community. Each person in each tribe carries a part of the border defining song as part of their heritage and their duty. When meeting, strangers sing songs to each other as a means to communicate identity and location. In this way, neither map nor song is more true a descriptor than the other.

Marking territory through the sharing of artistic experience has a powerfully practical purpose. The beauty of artistic expression and response is that it often presents a depth of meaning and appreciation that is lacking in more linear and technical descriptions of borders, values and beliefs. This method of interconnectivity has helped to avoid conflict in many hard environments while other attempts have failed miserably.

I believe that we are all artists simply because we engage in that curious process of connecting (and disconnecting) that has been a part of human activity since earliest history, on a daily basis, in many different ways. With this, I also believe that the primary challenge for each individual artist exists in discovering what media(s) we may best put together, independently or collectively, and to what purpose. A quality art work or arts education program, I believe, is one that helps each of us better actualize ourselves, others and our environments (physical, spiritual, virtual, etc.) through the sharing of knowledge, experience and perceptions.

I welcome you to my territory with these thoughts in mind. My penultimate intention in doing so is to promote co-operation with respect to differences and to nurture a shared commitment towards the seeking of creative solutions to practical and impractical problems…not unlike the birds or the Aborigines.

Shelley

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