A couple of years ago, I burned some of my art for the first time. Before that moment, I’d held onto the flurry of those wrinkled drawings from art school for years. Hording them – allowing one pile to rot under my bed and another to bleed and fester in the damp dark mildew behind the couch. And then, suddenly . . . it was just time.
I stood in front of the burn barrel, leafing through my disheveled drawings meticulously, purposefully, carefully peeling the papers apart, separating the ones that are folded into one another. I select the first few and begin to put them to flame, finally ready to see them consumed in a bright flicker-flash of warmth and light. Orange reflects off the faces huddled near. A girl I don’t know says, “Aren’t you going to pass those around first?”
There were all kinds of different people at the little Long Beach gathering we had in our friend’s back yard that night. Everyone was doing their own thing. Someone strummed a guitar, a quiet girl in the corner rolled joint after expert joint. I had to ask her if she was Canadian. Her answer is ‘no.’ One group of friends play bongos. Others pop the tops off another round of cold beer. And me . . . I’m burning my art.
Why burning my art? Because it was time. Because the last name signed to the stuff was different in 1999; not my own. Because I don’t have to give a reason, that’s why I burn my art. Mostly I burn it so that the flow can move through me again.
I explain to everyone that this stuff doesn’t have to burn, it just needs a different home. One girl takes my self-portrait line drawing. Someone else takes the chalk still life of the sphere and the green cup.
When I try to chuck the 2-D design project of the flapping birds into the cylinder, the flames flare as if to collect the paper, now backlit in orange. But then at the last second, a tiny gust of air pushed in and the paper wrenched free on its own, a narrow escape. And the pencil drawing of the birds fluttered unscathed to the ground. I held it for awhile, deciding to toss it in last. After everything is passed around again, the birds are once again held to the flames. Then, suddenly, our host decides he wants to keep that one.
The old must be destroyed so that the new energy can come to be.
As I burn my art, I take time to notice the painstaking time detail and effort on the part of the artist. And I tell myself, “Remember this. Get inspired. Rebuild from the ashes.” And so the beat goes on.