"The greater puzzle of universal wisdom and beauty that we have strived to honor through our work includes the profound legacies of world artistic and spiritual traditions, the innate integrity of human communities where people seek to live in social harmony, and that regenerative stream of life sustained upon the earth itself as it spins through the cosmos to the music of the spheres."
Success for the creatively-inclined individual can be defined in many ways. Certainly there are those who necessarily measure their triumphs in terms of monetary gains. There are others for whom success means the refinement of a process, participation in a unique endeavor, the achievement of a level of personal mastery, or the realization of a rare kind of vision.
For some, it is all of the above.
Upon agreeing to work with the artist Luther E. Vann on a book showcasing contemporary art, ekphrastic poems, and short essays in 1991, there was little reason to believe it would ever see publication much less gain recognition as a “success.” It was not the kind of work on which publishers preferred to take chances. Neither the artist nor this author at the time commanded such compelling presences in the marketplace as to make a victorious outcome likely or inevitable in 2008. Whether or not it would have moved the hearts of judges making and breaking aspiring entrepreneurs during Shark Tank Week is debatable.
Nevertheless, the idea was powerful enough to survive almost 20 years before finally seeing the light of day. During that time, from 1991–2008, the individuals whose creative drive sustained the project experienced everything one might expect human beings to experience over a period of almost 2 decades: illness, divorce, death, economic upheavals, professional roadblocks, and professional victories.
A Persistent Vision
What allowed the endeavor to survive and eventually emerge in the form of a community-sponsored artistic event (in Savannah, Georgia), a celebrated book, and history-making art exhibition was a combination of artistic appeal and commercial potential. A number of poems from the book were published over several years, from the late 1990s to 9/11 and beyond, in ESSENCE Magazine. Likewise, some of the art in the proposed publication was at the time available for sale and made the idea of an accompanying exhibition attractive.
Moreover, both the artist and writer had strong connections to the traditions and creative talents of the Harlem Renaissance that endowed the work with a historical value which very few (if any) similar projects could claim. In addition, potential stakeholders were presented through a series of meetings conducted at the Jepson Center for the Arts with statements of the vision, objectives, and mission that made the work significant.
Stating the Mission
The goal and objective of ELEMENTAL, The Power of Illuminated Love, is to provide a creative tool capable of helping people recognize that the spiritual journey on which so many find themselves is not necessarily a solitary one. It underscores through text and image the idea that people inhabit and often share different states of being that make us much more alike than unalike.
The value of such a recognition can prove profound when considering the hundreds of thousands who commit suicide because of their belief that "nobody understands me," those who end up in prison due to an exaggerated sense of worthlessness, or those who live in dejected states of loneliness or despair brought on by unrelenting undiminished violent conflicts and conditions in the world. In certainly speaks in 2014 to the compulsion that drives individuals to join forces with such nihilistic entities as Boko Haram, ISIS, and the various hate groups that mar America’s social landscape.
NEXT: Text and Meaning in Elemental, the Power of Illuminated Love Part 2
AND: Text and Meaning in Elemental the Power of Illuminated Love Part 3
Contemporary award-winning American author of classically-styled works in history, poetry, creative nonfiction, speculative fiction, and journalism.