"Story Bones"

by Hannah Bess Ross

If I am forgiving, it is very usually not with myself.  I think that this may be common among creative types though some artists embrace their missteps. They celebrate failure and with an almighty clairvoyance seem to understand inherently that failure brings growth. They forgive themselves and shake hands with their creativity as if to say, “Ah well, another day perhaps?” I don’t know if I will ever fully know that mentality. I’ve always treated creative growth as something I am directly responsible for nurturing.  It is my fault when paint meets paper and fails.

That said I’ve been recently trying to change my outlook. Struggling with art as a pathway to success is a newer full-time gig for me. I rely on it working fruitfully now unlike ever before. But instead of shaking hands with my creativity as if it were a separate entity that I can’t always tame and control, I have started to think about creativity as a structural skeletal system inside my body. Kind of gross, maybe? Maybe. But hear me out! Creativity is like anatomy – bendable, breakable, sometimes unreachable… but always physically just there.

This piece is one of eight in a series called “Story Bones” because while I can’t always rely on my surface thoughts or on external inspiration, I can rely on my bones. They are the foundational parts of myself that hold ideas and untapped innovation. Stories live there. They hold me up. They aren’t always accessible but just knowing they’re there is comforting. “Story bones” is really a kooky metaphor for creative potential but I find actualizing this notion and giving it physical form gives me ownership somehow.

This particular piece was the first one I painted. I wanted the pieces to each showcase a different kind of “story bones” through different thematic elements and for the elements to represent actual bone-like shapes. The anatomy here is by no means accurate or functional but gives just enough context to illustrate a skeletal form. I like birdhouses as a structure motif because they are something human-made and human-influenced that serve actual humans little purpose. A lot of birdhouses have flourishes like bay windows and picket fences that make them fancier than my own house. (Not that I’m jealous…) The figure also acts as a human-shaped birdhouse. And then there’s a caged-bird-rib cage within so it’s a different type of birdhouse within a birdhouse. It’s got layers!

This piece functions as a showcase for what having “story bones” means to me and what it informs or shapes sense of creativity. It gives creativity permission to take from me and to leave me. It also provides it roots to make a nest in, to lie dormant in for a while if it needs to. I like the idea of carrying creativity around with you everywhere – having it creak and twist and stretch. There is a strength and a comfort in acknowledging that your physical makeup is a part of your art making.  Stories are connected there – reaching and growing and surfacing in all sorts of curious ways.

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