Why I Need Art: for the thinkers and the fearful

I’m a thinker, not a feeler. I resent the title, sometimes, as I think people can equate that to not having many feelings. (The notion is actually a tad insulting, like suggesting that feelers don’t have many thoughts.) I have lots of feelings though—it’s processing and communicating them that’s difficult for me.

Artists are stereotypically known as feelers, fountains of emotion and exclamation marks and ~drama~. Which is probably true, anecdotally, but definitely not me. It’s a funny thing; I’d think it’d be the opposite. It’s because I’m not a feeler, because my feelings are so difficult to express, that I need art to do it for me.

Understanding and sharing my feelings is like speaking a second language — confusing, time-consuming, unwieldy, and frustratingly dumbed-down. It feels like I’m a human trapped in some Spock-like exterior. It feels like I’m downsampling complex and nuanced sentiments into muted, low-res, versions. They lack their initial brilliance. Art feels like my best chance to communicate in a way that seems faithful to the original.

My favorite photoshoots I’ve done are visual expressions of a feeling. The closer the images are to that original feeling, the better. It’s just like music. Happiness is a plunky ditty on a ukulele. Resolve is a thumping beat. Sadness is a slow-moving violin. The same is true for visual art; it’s just less obvious. That’s why I like it, though. Writing a sad song feels too vulnerable; writing a sad photo feels a little less exposed.

I sometimes wonder if being a “thinker” is rebranded fear. Fear of sharing myself and being met with indifference, cynicism, or contempt. That would hurt. It’s so much easier to hold back. Art helps me hide. With photography, I can obscure my feelings in layers of visual metaphors. Writing is more revealing, but at least I can hide behind a keyboard rather than face eye contact.

A cynic might say I’m using art like a crutch. And I am! But it’s a crutch that will one day allow me to walk on my own, hopefully. Training wheels. The minor leagues. Practicing feelings. Test driving vulnerability.

Photos: Michael Vlamis of CW’s Roswell, New Mexico
Styling by Spencer Waldner