What are you making this spring? Which piece of art - music, writing, dance, drama, woodworking, painting or gardening will you start or set free?
Envision a scene where women wear power tools like crowns. These DIY divas are strong and confident because they could carve you in half with their headpieces. They're all business in safety orange and yellow. Unless they're strutting the catwalk in a theatre production, in which case they mean whatever the audience decides.
The industrial grunge tableau floated past me last Friday at ASB Arena during Zoetica, the 2017 version of Tarnished Frocks and Divas. It was a pinch-me-I'm-in-Tauranga moment, where stylised production meets the woman next door, because several women in the show are friends and acquaintances. Zoetica tells the story of a newly-minted magazine editor through fashion, song and dance. It's a sensory feast - so much happens on stage and on-screen at once, it would take several viewings to fully digest the beauty and nuances happening within the show's six elaborately-staged walks.
The arts are not frivolous; in these fraught times and throughout history, they're a balm - a path to understanding troubles through re-interpretation of events. They also provide a runway beyond reality. It is beautiful and necessary to lose ourselves within the pages of a book; the melody of a song; the scene of a play; the colours of a painting.
Making art is messy and impractical. Your beloved vision could be something the masses hate. Easier to play it safe and give 'em what you think they want.
My friend Rob is a successful artist who sells depictions of landscapes and people in the Bay of Plenty and around New Zealand. His works hang in homes, businesses and galleries worldwide. He paints what he likes. He told me he instructs students in his painting classes to create as if they're going to stash their finished product under the bed. The brave souls who follow that direction, making art as if no one will ever see it - are the ones whose books, movies, and musicals I covet.
It's hard to be honest with our art when we produce with an eye on the market rather than a heart for truth. Maybe that's why the manuscript I've been metaphorically balling up and re-writing for years is trapped under the weight of inertia, uncertainty and a desire for commercial appeal. I wonder what would happen, if, in a final edit, I took Rob's advice. What if I strove for what Alberto Giacometti suggests is the object of art: "...not to reproduce reality but to create a reality of the same intensity." I keep asking two questions: What do I want to say? To whom do I want to say it?
I walked in Tarnished Frocks two years ago as a model (a term best thought of in the ironic sense when referred to this soccer mum who can barely balance on stilettos), when the theme was housewives breaking free into a fantasy world with help from a fairy godmother-type. The costumes, hair and makeup were mind-blowing. The dancing and singing, exquisite. The theme? More 1970s than early 2000s.
The show celebrates women aged 40-plus while raising money for charity and presenting talented designers and performers who live and work among us. Brava sisters, job well done.
What if the next big show provoked thought not only with creative costumes and set design, but also with characters and theme? What if we stretch the catwalk and take chances with story?
Perhaps there's a willingness in the Bay to examine social issues with a critical eye while maintaining high production standards. We don't expect Folies Bergere-style half-nude show girls hanging from the ceiling. Or Josephine Baker dancing in a string of fake bananas and little else. Maybe there's a hunger for more depth. Maybe not.
I'll support the show and other local arts regardless because the dreamers, designers, performers and technicians are my neighbours and friends. And attending or performing in local theatre provides a chance to dress as my best self or embody someone else.
I overheard a young woman praising Zoetica dancers after the show, saying, "I can't believe they're all over 40." We don't start stumbling and breaking hips the minute we hit Month 480. My peers are active in body and spirit. They're open-minded and curious. And smokin' hot.
Those of us in our 40s and 50s came of age in the '70s and '80s. The women soon to hit the Tarnished stage grew up in the 90s. We're not just baby boomers, we're generation X and soon to come - millennials.
Bruce Lee said the true artist has no public, that art reaches its greatest peak when devoid of self-consciousness. "Freedom discovers man the moment he loses concern over what impression he is making or about to make." Also, Bruce, freedom discovers woman.
What will you create this spring? Will you show it to your family, to your outer circle, and possibly, the world? Consider that the song, painting or poem you're most worried about unveiling is exactly what many of us want and need.