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I love art because I love concept.

You can’t love a piece of music, or a sculpture, or anything expressive without thinking about the conceptual thought driving its form.


By Junkyu Muto, part of a seven-piece series of “Peace Sculptures”

The Sacred Circle of Smoke framing Devil’s Tower, for example, demarcates historical ground for more than two dozen native tribes, as framed by the smoke ring of a peace pipe on holy ground. The concept is simple. Simple is often beautiful (personally, I think the twist in the ring makes the piece especially smart and interesting). Each of us holds many concepts, about everything. We evaluate concepts and assign value to them. Sometimes we create them. Or ignore them.

Concept isn’t far from perspective.  


This is what I’m working on now.

There is a relationship between concept and the perspective. The artist, the message, and the observer are all communicating. I once had a poetry professor who wrote for the New Yorker who said:

If no one understands your poetry, you’re not a poet. 

He was right. No one creates art, or lives life, hoping to be misunderstood.

I believe there is also a triangle between concept, perspective, and who we are. The people in my life each offer a different backdrop to the art of me. Setting is a key literary term, one learned in middle school, to unlock meaning and give context. There is power in where something takes place, took place, or will take place.

I have a really good friend who I talk to only a few times a year. Sometimes every other year. We could go ten without talking, but we wouldn’t skip a beat. I appreciate that friendship because it offers me an avenue of expression I don’t have with just anyone. I have others who carry different snapshots of where I come from, who I am, or who I’ve been. My running friends know runner Julie. My college friends know college Julie. No, it isn’t always as simple as that, but that’s the idea. My husband sets my day-to-day setting to my foreground and future. He’s a constant. Certain friends offer blurry snaps of past times. Others could describe the nitty gritty details of my present tense.

People give us backdrops for ourselves and our beliefs. Sometimes I think that is the reason we surround ourselves with people who are similar to us. It’s an easy frame. And, at other times, we select people who offer  things vastly different than what we know to find something new.

I used to love good beers and natural cigarettes, and could easily spend summer nights on patios talking endlessly and enjoying both. That’s not the case now. I don’t smoke, I don’t want to, and I don’t want to “pregame,” as we called it, before going out. That’s no longer something I value. I smirk and also cringe at those memories and others. I have a different lifestyle now, a new setting for this protagonist.

I’ve lived enough to learn: it is more valuable to be honest than to appear perfect.

I’d rather sweep certain things under the rug and move on, of course, but that’s not how it works. Someone will eventually pull the right cord and slam the backdrop of who you used to be on stage. It is more prudent, I find, to consider the themes of your life and find a way to accept each for it’s own concept. No one said art was always beautiful (and if they did,  they were wrong).

I know that when you persistently deny who you are (or you have been, or things that have occurred), you fall into delusion.

Delusion is, I believe, the absolute hell of the mind.

As a barista, or anyone in customer service, you meet plenty of people. Many, many times someone finishes their transaction and leave you thinking, “I’ll never be anything like that. They’re insane.” But I have to stop and think, did they once think that, too? Does anyone plan to end up lost to reality? I doubt many, in their youth, want to wrestle delusion in adulthood. People don’t realize that the many paths you go down lead you other paths and other paths, like a root system.

And, you rarely get to go back to the beginning.

We all need context to our story. The important people in our lives provide it, whether we want to admit or deny it. I see memories pop up occasionally on my facebook that make me shake my head. First of all, I don’t always remember them, which is a bad sign. But it’s also a stabbing reminder that I was living a different life than what I choose now. I have a knee-jerk instinct to delete that admission, to feel ashamed of that and exclude it.

It is when our denial frames our reality that we lose some intrinsic truth we need. Reality is the rudder, regardless of religion or upbringing or culture or anything. It is the one common ground that we desperately need if we are to comprehend any part of the short life of ours, and it exists within all of our backdrops.

People define themselves within these contexts.

I think this is where we need to decide our own values, our own setting. What I once used to define myself is not what I use now. I am in a different setting. Perhaps I will cycle through many more for the years I may hold ahead of me.

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