Nurturing Creativity

© Kristine Heykants 2018

© Kristine Heykants 2018

When I was in graduate school I read A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf’s extended essay on the necessity for a woman to have a space and money of her own if she is to write. She has been criticized over the years as being elitist and privileged, yet I cannot argue with the essence of having one’s basic needs met in order to create. 

Fast forward to 2018 – self-care is a hot topic, and necessary for maintaining a creative life. I’m not referring to writing the next Great American Novel, screen play or music score. Whenever we solve a problem in a new way, it requires brainpower and creativity.

 In the spirit of Virginia Woolf and self-care, I give you my top six needs for keeping the creative fires burning.

·     Exercise most days. It doesn’t have to be strenuous, it’s enough to move for 30 minutes.

·     Eat nourishing and energy giving food. This means different things to different people. Personally, I try to avoid sugar and alcohol which throw my energy into a tailspin.

·     Maintain a daily meditation practice. I alternate between stream of conscious journaling, formal meditation practice, and listening to guided meditations.

·     Good sleep hygiene: go to bed and get up at the same time every day. This one is hard for me because I get a second wind around 10 pm and like to keep working on the computer: not conducive to sleep!

·     Socialize. This is especially challenging during the winter months in Minnesota when the pull to stay inside the house is strong.

·     Make time for pleasure and fun. Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way introduced me to the practice of Artist Dates – A mandatory once-a-week date with your inner artist where you take her wherever her heart desires. It can be frivolous (like playing your favorite childhood game) or serious (seeing a play on a challenging subject). The point is to LISTEN to what your artist self wants to do, without judgement.

How are you going to care for your inner artist today?

Power, Privilege and Edward Curtis

Such a Big Dream: Edward Curtis at 150   reception, © Kristine Heykants 2018

Such a Big Dream: Edward Curtis at 150 reception, © Kristine Heykants 2018

I recently worked on a project for the University of Minnesota Libraries documenting a reception and lecture for the exhibition Such a Big Dream: Edward S Curtis at 150, marking the 150-year anniversary of photographer Edward S. Curtis’ birth.

 My opinion of Curtis’ work has vacillated over the years, at first feeling his pictures presented a one-dimensional and romanticized portrayal of a marginalized ethnic group. After learning more about the political and social climate during which he made his encyclopedic work The North American Indian, as well as his personal commitment to the project and his work with tribes in the Pacific Northwest, I have arrived at a more nuanced view of his oeuvre.

 While taking pictures at the reception, I spoke with a Native American guest – perhaps the only one in attendance – about his perspective on the exhibition. He replied that he felt the pictures fed into so many tropes about the noble Indian and served to reinforce stereotypes constructed by European Americans. Even so, his friend’s grandfather had been photographed by Curtis and he was there to view the picture in person.

 I felt relieved to not be the only one there experiencing the duality of the work.

 Such a Big Dream: Edward S Curtis at 150 is on view at the Elmer L. Andersen Library, University of Minnesota Twin Cities Campus, through January 8, 2019.

If you desire to read more on the provocative subject of Curtis’ work, online art and culture newsletter Hyperallergic published an essay on a (separate) comprehensive exhibition of Curtis’ work here.

Uprooted at Waseca Art Center

Jaime, Erin and Murph © Kristine Heykants 2018

Jaime, Erin and Murph © Kristine Heykants 2018

Waseca Minnesota is a town of 9400, about a 90 minute drive from Minneapolis. Surrounded by flat cornfields with grain bins dotting the horizon, it has a visual backdrop similar to that of Belmond, Iowa (the setting for Uprooted), except for one thing: Waseca is home to a Federal Correctional Institution for women.

In 2012, my cousin Erin from Belmond joined the ranks of it’s 700 inmates, having been convicted of drug possession with intent to deliver. She was released in 2015, and her story is one reason I felt compelled to work on Uprooted. It speaks profoundly of life behind the picket fence, of the struggle for a middle class life, of living out what we’ve learned in childhood.

It seems fitting then, that I should exhibit Uprooted in Waseca, as Erin’s story has parallels to my own. I too have felt the pressure of keeping up appearances, wrestled with chemical dependency and mental health, while grasping for new ways to relate.

Join me for the opening reception for Uprooted: A Search for Meaning and Connection in Rural Iowa at the Waseca Art Center, October 19, from 5 to 8 pm. Additional information can be found here.

The Tension of Paradox

Jessica (Belmond police officer)  © Kristine Heykants 2018

Jessica (Belmond police officer) © Kristine Heykants 2018

Often I choose a project because I feel a need to explore conflicting feelings on a subject. Through photography I am able to examine many points of view, in part to satisfy my curiosity, in part to educate myself, in part to participate in a lived experience. What results typically leaves me with more diametrically opposing facts than when I started. This is certainly true of Uprooted, where my research in Belmond has permitted me to tell a more nuanced story of life in the rural Midwest . 

I find comfort and inspiration in seeing how other artists wrestle with paradox. While on summer vacation in New Mexico recently, I jumped at the chance to see a survey of work by the late Patrick Nagatani, showing at the New Mexico Museum of Art . He is known for his tongue-in-cheek treatment of serious subjects like the effects of development and deployment of nuclear weapons on humans and the environment. I was especially taken with Great Yellow Father, a picture he made in collaboration with painter Andrée Tracey. We see Nagatani himself taking a picture of flying Koi who are ostensibly jumping out of the tainted yellow river, while he is dressed in a Kodak T-shirt and baseball cap, with a dark Kodak factory off in the distance. It seems The Great Yellow Father (as Kodak is commonly called among photographers) is referring to our complicity in pollution, while pointing out the absurdity and privilege of photography as a leisurely pastime.

If you happen to be in Santa Fe, Patrick Nagatani: Invented Realities is on view until September 9, 2018.

Rootstalk Prairie Journal

Fireworks at Wright County Fair   © Kristine Heykants 2018

Fireworks at Wright County Fair  © Kristine Heykants 2018

I’m honored to have a selection of images from Uprooted included in the Spring 2018 edition of Rootstalk: A Prairie Journal of Culture, Science, and the Arts, published by the Center for Prairie Studies at Grinnell College. Rootstalk contains essays, poetry, photography, podcasts, and multi-media features covering topics as diverse as history of place, starting a farm-to-table coffee shop, life growing up in an early homesteading family in Kansas, and new crop seed varieties.

The Rootstalk editors chose several of my night scenes that reflect a dark undercurrent within. If you are interested in rural Midwestern culture, Rootstalk is a must-read!