I first met Kaja through a writing group and I knew her mostly through her writing. She’s working on a an exquisite memoir that was started by her mother, written in a sublimely stark and rich voice. Much of this had to do with it being written in Danish and translated into English but there is also much artistry in the storytelling. I stand in awe of Kaja’s creative expression, not only in her writing but also in her art making, her presence and her main gig: interior architecture and design.
In our writing group, we bring a piece we’ve been working on and read it aloud to get feedback from the group. Last time we met, Kaja brought this piece that she spontaneously wrote while contemplating her creative trajectory and accomplishments. Hearing her read it was an immense treat. I felt like I had been brought into the fold of genuine gratitude and appreciation. And of course it made me think of all of the influences in my own life to which I can look back on and give thanks.
On the eve of a new year, I find this piece a worthy place of reflection as we move forward.
Knowing where things come from…
By Kaja Gam, Fall 2015 after August some time
Knowing where things come from makes you a conspirator. Not knowing makes you a freewheeling spirit. An ignorant sort of spirit.
When I was asked to sit on the Maryland State Arts Council Selection Committee for their first Individual Artists grants back in 1985 or 86- I didn’t know where that came from. Yes, I knew some of it, but not the whole story.
If it was through Mary MacArthur and through the NYFA connection, then how did that come about? How did I even get involved with NYFA?
There is so much I don’t know about how I arrived at where I am – or at any particular time of my life that I sometimes feel I have moved through the stages in this hazy bubble of insular SELF, completely oblivious of the people who helped me along.
Who were all these people who paved the way for me? Did I even contribute anything or..?
Now that is being contrite and vain in reverse. I did my work, I believed in it, or rather it was a necessity to get it out there – I often doubted the artistic value of my work, but never for a moment did I doubt that it was a necessity and a life thread for survival for me to do it.
However, I still wonder- and now more than then, who were behind me, who pulled the strings to get me pushed along.
There must have been forces, people, who pushed, paved the way for me -and I only know a fraction of what was done on my behalf.
Looking back at what seemed easy and natural at the time, now feels as if I scaled Mount Everest in oblivion of the Sherpas that actually did the climbing on my behalf.
I did my work, and it was not easy. At times it frustrated me deeply and in the end I needed to say goodbye to it and give it up. That was my work. No Sherpa did that for me. But the recognition I enjoyed at the time, and the hope that it brought with it in the shape of grants and goodwill I was not fully cued into.
Looking back at myself at age 27-30-35-37 I was naïve – and I am somewhat ashamed of not being aware enough to really appreciate and thank the people who believed in me and my art at the time.
However, if I could have seen it with the eyes I have today I might not have done it.
Is that what maturity is about? Is that what youth is about? That I look back and say: ”If I had known then what I know today I might never have done it”?
The fact is, I didn’t look back then – there was no future to look back from. I did my work because I had to, because I believed in what I did without hesitation, and without thinking of how to get there, or how difficult the road would be.
Lacking a political mind in your work is goodwill’s best kept secret, but it is also its weakness. You never know when and why the connection is lost because you didn’t know what to nurture. And who to thank.
Who are the people and forces in your life who have propelled you to your own greatness? I take Kaja’s sentiment into my art journal today and give thanks to those who have supported me- both known and unknown influences in my life. I have much to be grateful for!