For Anita Easterwood creativity begins at the intersection between self-identity and her own exploration of blackness and self-expression. “I remember I told one of my Art professors that I’ve always had this disconnect when it came to my art, because everything I’ve done outside of class has been Black. I’m an art major and I’m feeling this strong disconnect connect. He said, `Well the project you’re doing covers Africa, it’s not that you’re dealing with two separate worlds, you’re just finding how to bring them together," Anita stated as she continued to think out loud. When the conversation began I really wanted to understand where her creativity was pulled from.
As a young visual artist, Anita’s drawings came from the things she saw in front of her, whether it was the glossy aesthetically pleasing front cover of one of her favorite magazines or the challenging images from the cartoons on TV. With artistic maturity and exposure to the freedom and creative structure given from her college professors, her proneness for drawing what she saw turned into drawing what she felt around her. This being the vibrancy and complexity of Blackness. The more she created, the more she realized the connection.
“I would always go back to, ‘I wanna explore Black hair..I want to explore Black history.’ At the time I did a digital project on Martin Luther King and Malcom X. Even now as I create, it always goes back, even if it’s not political, it’s always on Black life. For us to be living in a time where we are fighting against a one sided system, and we are seeing people killed left and right unjustly. I felt like I couldn’t hide in my drawings. That feeling isn’t going to leave me when I sit down and draw. If anything it has allowed for more time to stew in that feeling," she lamented.
When we think about creative depletion our minds often go to being overworked, or we think back to people telling us to nourish ourselves creatively, "consume and you'll feel inspired". But for people like Anita, who’s self-expression is so closely tied to her relationship with blackness and self-identity, how do you push forward? When one side; self-identity is at war, it’s hard to pull on the side of self-expression.
Anita is not alone in this feeling.
The community has been fighting for years so it's not something that comes unfamiliar, but in 2020 we haven’t been distracted by the amenities of popular culture. 2020's global pandemic and national lockdowns have gave us time to sit in that feeling as we've fought for our health and humanity. It’s been hard not to feel stuck in the mud.
“I was at the point where I did not want to do anything. My dad told me he wanted to do a mural tied in with the Black Lives Matter movement. He asked, ‘Are you with me or not?’ I wasn’t going to let my dad down...to be honest, at first I wasn’t feeling it. I was putting on a brave face, I had to keep working through until it got there," Anita shared in a moment of honesty.
“Once we were on the other side of the mural, looking back and seeing how it was received was nice. What makes me feel more at peace is the understanding that it’s always about the work in the end. It’s not about me, it’s not about him, or about our skills. It’s about the message that we’re translating through our purpose and passion, it’s about what we’re giving back. I think when I shifted that mindset, and told myself this is what matters, this is what will help others, that helped me get out of my creative block”
Anita is speaking on a shift in mentality from anything that comes from self, to focusing on how the art resonates with others. Within that shift in understanding lies the key to properly navigating depletion.
Instead of feeling depleted and guilted by internal or external pressures. Depletion should be looked at as a necessary and vital part to your creative process as a Black artist. There is peace in that.
“That feeling never lasts forever. That’s kind of why I don’t freak out when I feel so depleted. We don’t understand the amount of harm stress does to our body. Even if we say we’re okay, our body will tell us differently. Since we don’t recognize it and try to push through, it just puts you in a worse mental and physical state. I’ve learned that life’s roller coast will bring you to a low but it will always bring you back up. You have to stay focused, stay hopeful, give yourself some grace and I’ll get better. I think we need to ask ourselves, who we are performing for? Why are we putting external pressures on ourselves? We tell ourselves that it has to be us, we have to create, we have to say something about this. No we don’t. Take a break, do what you need to do to get better and you’ll be able to come back stronger. We all get there but it will be okay."
You have to respect the boundaries of Black creatives. To rush or be rushed into being reactive creatively can be damaging to yourself and those who could have possibly been impacted. I think we all learned that lesson this year. Intentionality still remains key in a time where external forces are weighing on us heavily. We should allow ourselves the time to move with precision, aiming for impact versus moving reactively. The will to create leaving is okay.
She left us with gems!
The Good Fight continues on, family! 🌹