Realizing Identities and Remembering My Art

Janet Sebastian-Coleman - Senegal


October 31, 2015

October 16th 2015:

 

About a week ago, I pulled myself out of bed hoping to have a little time to myself before being totally surrounded by kids and food. When I pulled open my door I was greeted by a pale blue morning and a magically empty compound. My family had gone to buy bread. Amazingly, I was alone for what felt like the first time in years.

 

The lighting is great, I thought. I stepped back in my hut, dug through my bag, and came back out, camera in hand. The air was calm and little streams from last night’s rain flowed through the yard, around the tree’s roots, and down out the gate. Walking around the compound, filming the details of the leaves moving in the wind, catching an up-shot of the corn stalks, I felt a brave sense of freedom fill my chest. I had the power of sight and interpretation in my hand. I could see the world as I like, focus my attention on the parts I found most interesting, and create beauty out of everyday objects.

 

In that perfect morning air, when the dawn hadn’t yet washed away but the day had begun, I was myself again. The homesickness and stress I had been fighting the past week lifted a little. Yes, everything is new here but I have the skills to understand and interpret the world. I have been growing for eighteen years, I know a thing or two – if I remember that I know a thing or two. And I remember: art isn’t something I just enjoy doing, it’s an integral and necessary part of my life.

 

I care about the lighting. I pay attention to colors. My mind is always framing the scene. Small details and repetitions fascinate me. I stitch together what I see. I produce interpretations as a means of communication and personal understanding.

 

During my senior year of high school, I spent a lot of time seeking out newness: new places and stories to capture and bring together to form my senior thesis film, America. Now I am surrounded by new events, new people, and new landscapes everyday. During my first official week in community, I grew overwhelmed; there was too much to observe and seek to understand. I fell into a slump – homesickness and stress hit hard.

 

After that morning, I know it only takes a little careful observation to lead to a lot of understanding. A morning of meditating on flowing water and waving corn stalks created a day of personal peace. I observe to understand. By understanding I can interpret. With interpretations I produce work – and the next question to solve. With a question to solve, I’m excited to greet the morning.

 

Janet Sebastian-Coleman