What Kind Of Artist Am I?

Renae Brabham

Bricoleur: As used in reference to visual arts, bricoleur refers to a person who constructs or creates a work from a diverse range of things that happen to be available. (I think the laymen’s term for bricoleur would be crafty.) 


When posting a blog on Grit, I am prompted to choose a category that best suits the post. Last week, as I was marking the category for my entry, I noticed that I tend to always choose the category called "Mixed Messages." My stories may have a clear and concise direction at first, but by the time I put the period on them, they have run the gambit and I feel that I must use this indecisive label.  

Words were my first love. For whatever reason, there were only two books in my house growing up—a Webster’s dictionary and a Bible (accompanied by a set of Bible story books). I remember stating that I was going to read them both from front to back. I made it to the word "aardvark" in the dictionary, and, eventually, to the last thin page of the King James. I looked for words on objects everywhere. The first big words that I learned were "King Edward." He was the dude on the cigar box my mom kept change in.
The next word was PRNDL (that's pronounced purn-dul). Yes-sir-ee, I was proud when I was able to explain to my mom what happened when my grandmother put the PRNDL stick on the steering column into the wrong gear and backed into a tree.
So, it looks like my path might have already been forged, right? Well, it may have been, if not for a lesson I learned from my second grade art teacher. 
That teacher—my first bricoleur—taught me to open my eyes to forms of art that exist around me. "There are objects all around you that you can use to create, you just have to look for them," she told us. Nirvana! Do you mean to tell me that my expression of self doesn't have to end when my tin box of paints dries up? We made Picasso-inspired art collages with crushed and dyed egg shells, and 3D art on cardboard backing using beans, rice, and noodles. 
This new realization spilled over into all areas of my life. I decided to try out this world of mixed media art for my mom's next birthday gift. There was a pretty blue box in the bathroom under the sink that read "Kotex." The box had a big, beautiful white rose on it. I cut that bad boy into the shape of a card and pasted paper to the inside with a message. That evening, there was a small gathering for a birthday dinner at my aunt and uncle's home. I brought the card out from behind my back at the kitchen table, which resulted in a few audible gasps, then laughs and nervous giggles. Their response was a little different than I had expected. Oh well, it was fun for me.
The next week I made a card for my math teacher out of our Captain Crunch box. This idea of using mixed media art even made it into the kitchen. While making breakfast for my sister and brother one morning, I decided to spice it up a little. Taking cue from Dr. Seuss, I cooked the eggs with green food coloring. That didn't go over too well.
Although it doesn't get the accolades of a single, defined art form, mixed media definitely gets a response. I search in earnest for things that are otherwise deemed useless and look for ways to give them a new life. Sticks become canes, shells sculpt into Christmas trees. Projects sit in every corner of my home for me to pick up. Some I have worked on for years, others I will need to go to prison to finish. 
I used to long to be the person who, when asked, would emphatically say, "I am an artist," leading to the indelible question, "What kind of artist are you?" To which I would reply, "Oh, I write," or, "I'm a sculptor," or, "I'm a photographer." Not anymore. My answer, in earnest, has to be, "Well, I am an ADD Mixed Message artist. I write; paint floor cloths; make soap, perfumes, unusual jewelry, mosaics, collages, and weird books." Next year, this list may be totally different. And for that, I am so grateful for that art teacher who broadened my horizons.