Inspiration, Preoccupation… Why I do the Things I do
by Heather Jo Flores, July 2014
As an interdisciplinary artist, my practice centers on a fascination with connection, monstrosity and metamorphosis. Grounded in the belief that art heals, and that creativity is a physical act, my work returns always to the source: my body. With this body I find stories, and through sharing those stories, I hope to empower individuals and communities to navigate their own healing journeys, personal and political, toward a more peaceful and ecologically sane world.
My primary tool is the written, spoken and sung word, but my pilgrimage takes me through multiple modalities: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, music, movement, painting, land art and agriculture. My most powerful influences have been the unintentional ecofeminists—those who have revealed nature through the transparency of their work, and who have revealed the depth of humanity through their willingness to risk getting lost in the dark: Clarice Lispector, Ursula LeGuin, Helene Cixous, Erica Jong, Augusto Boal, Jolie Holland, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Regina Spektor, Amy Winehouse, Carlos Castaneda, Ray Bradbury, Andy Goldsworthy.
I have studied writing, music, painting, sculpture, ceramics, dance, yoga, theater, permaculture and trauma recovery, and my daily practice integrates these in varied combinations: some days I will walk in meditation, stop and pile up rocks, then sit and write a song. Other days I will alternate writing with yoga, fifteen minutes of each, for hours. Most years, I grow a huge garden, just to create a beautiful habitat in which to write, paint, dance and dream. Often I will work towards a musical or written product, but will use land art, visual art and photography to iron out the kinks in my mind, and to illustrate and document the process. The variety of methods helps me distill the meaning of a piece, to find it's true form and expression, and to arrive at a sense of embodied completion.
I aim to investigate the intersection between phenomena, happenstance, and serendipity, and to allow the discoveries of that intersection to flow freely through my mind and body. And the fruits of this adventure, whether poems, books, stories, songs, gardens, visual arts or curricula, are intentionally radical, in the rhizomatic sense: rooted in stories, mine and yours, so that we may come together in conversation, in collaboration, and in community.
An Interdisciplinary Focus:
My critical inquiries stem from a lifelong set of preoccupations, which I will articulate briefly and indicate the process and products associated with each:
The de-vilification of women, nature and the unknown. My previous work as an organic farmer and environmental activist taught me that mainstream culture is terrified of that which it cannot understand. This fear leads to oppression and destruction, and much of my creative and intellectual inquiry has been guided by a desire to reconcile those fears, in myself and others. This was the primary inspiration for my work with the Heroine's Journey, which resulted in a 10,000-word critical essay that analyzed hero-based storytelling and presented feminist alternatives. By nature, these feminist perspectives could also be considered eco-feminist, as I found it impossible to separate the attitudes that oppress women from those that dominate and control nature.
The destiny of vicinity. So many of us follow a path through life that unfolds according to where we find ourselves living, working, studying. Often these locations were not choices made by ourselves, but rather are connected to our families, employers and opportunities. I am fascinated by the way a person's life is ultimately connected to where they find themselves. This connects to community work, partnership, and so much more.
The physicality of creativity. This last driving curiosity connects directly to the two above. Everything that we do is physical. Oppression happens to our bodies as much as our minds. Creative and intellectual context has everything to do with where you place your body in space and time. To think is an act, and for me, the making of art, whether using words, paints, music or other, comes directly from the physical body. I dove deep into the analysis of this idea during my practicum project, and produced a set of workshop exercises that combine physical action with art making. Beyond combining movement with creative attempts, I believe that a healthy diet and regular exercise are an essential part of becoming a successful artist, with success defined in terms of happiness, longevity, and a sense that our work is meaningful and effective.