Featured Artist: Margaret Barrett

This week I am thrilled to have composer Margaret Barrett share her journey with art and fear. Margaret is intentional, present, and generous, and I'm thrilled that she now works with me. She reminds me that creating is a spiritual discipline and worthy of our time, not matter how much we may be afraid.

What art do you make?

I am a composer, so I write music for any solo instrument, small ensembles or large orchestras . My favorite music to write is chamber music (for groups of less than ten musicians.)

What are you working on that you’re most excited about?

I am currently working on writing a piece for a local brass quintet in Dallas called "Octothorpe". I am excited about the work because in it, I am trying to express two seemingly opposite characteristics that God embodies as recorded in Hosea 13 and 14: God's wrath and anger, contrasted with God's abundance and tenderness. Trying to find the two extremes of these characteristics as represented in musical ideas is a challenge, but I was so moved by the mystery of God's character in this passage that I knew I wanted to capture it in musical terms.

Photo by Jared Tseng

Photo by Jared Tseng

How have you been challenged by fear this year? How have you responded?

It's only January 10th and I've been SO challenged already! I have been fearful that any success in my work has been "pure luck" and that the season of plenty (in terms of commissions) that I had in 2014 will end abruptly. I have been fearful that I do not deserve to be an artist and that I should "have a REAL job". I fear that I am not meant to be an artist and that I will therefore pursue a life of being a mediocre creator.

How has God provided for you this year?

God has led me to WELD, a collaborative co-working community. I have been so floored by God's leading me there. I would have never expected that I could be a part of a creative community; I had become strangely comfortable with being alone in my artistry. God has shown me encouragement, kindness, and that His dreams are bigger than even our own by leading me to be a part of this creative group of people. 

How are you struggling with identity?

As I mentioned before, I fear often that I'm "not really an artist". That I'm a poser, that I'm making it up as I go and that my work won't mean anything to anyone except me. I also struggle with my identity as a child of God, for whom God lets good things occur, because I often feel that the right way has to be the hard way, and vice versa. Receiving blessing makes me uneasy; I don't feel comfortable spending money on furthering my art, developing myself as a creator, or even just having times of non-productivity to relax my heart. I struggle with defining my identity through what I do, and I struggle to accept gifts and feel that I am worth the gift and the Giver.

Photo by Jared Tseng

Photo by Jared Tseng

What are you thankful for in this season?

My husband, who encourages me to write music and live in creative community, and who joins me and supports me as we yearn to live lives of boldness and risk.

What are you working on now even though you’re afraid?

I divide my time between two jobs - my freelance composition work and my employment as executive director of a local non-profit. I do have a vision that the former of those two will become my full-time job, so I am pushing towards that - but I am scared every day!

Who is currently an influential artist for you?

The writings of Annie Dillard blow my mind. She is such a beautiful and strong writer and I have never read someone that expressed the depths and the ineffable in the way she does.

I also adore Steve Schick - he is a percussionist based out of San Diego that performs with immense skill and redefines so many aspects of live music (especially the classical kind), such as the composer-to-performer relationship, the art of sound-making, the process of performance... he is truly amazing.

How do you hope for your art to encourage others?

This is an excerpt taken from my website on the subject:

I create because art points me toward transcendence in a way that nothing else has. When I am on the receiving end of artistic experiences, I come away encouraged, strengthened, comforted. I come away with a gift of understanding that defies articulation; that which I felt was intangible has become tangible and I am set free for a moment to be in awe. Thank you to countless artists whose work has encouraged me and shown me the depths of life in a way I could not have imagined.

My hope is that my creations do the same things for others - that they would help bring to life, by the One who gives life, the things they have always known, felt and desired.

Or perhaps it is rather that Nature, in her most irrational mood, has traced in invisible ink on the walls of the mind a premonition which these [...] artists confirm; a sketch which only needs to be held to the fire of genius to become visible. When one so exposes it and sees it come to life one exclaims in rapture, "But this is what I have always felt and known and desired!" - Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own

How else would you describe yourself?

I love cooking and listening to music. I love hanging out with people, though I can't seem to have a conversation for long without going into a deep topic. I love lingering with friends over a good cocktail or beer. I love watching movies and taking in visual art.

Photo by Jared Tseng

Photo by Jared Tseng

Favorite snack while creating?

Does a glass of wine count?

Favorite beverage?

Right now, a good frothy hearty stout.

Favorite place to dream?

If I can be really picky - on a back porch of a beach house on a stormy night. Or at a cabin in the snow! Locally? Inside my own house, comfortable on our living room couch.

How do you recharge?

I'm rather high strung and struggle with an emphasis on productivity, so getting away from the pressures and obligations of life is essential for me to really unplug. If I get out of town and go to a beautiful spot, like a camping trip or a beautiful road trip, that's when I really relax. For the times when that option isn't available, I recharge by ignoring my cell phone for an entire weekend and letting my whims guide me for an entire Sunday afternoon.

What encouragement do you have for other artists?

To create is a spiritual discipline, so prioritize it! I am never more dependent on Christ than when I am creating. I come completely empty-handed to the table, and somehow, in what is truly a mysterious process, the creation occurs as I work and offer myself to God's materials (sound, paint, words, etc); and at the end, a new life of a project, an artwork, a piece of music is born. The creative process is about creating something out of nothing, and I need God every step of the way to create.  My creating, while it is not the sum or pinnacle of my spiritual relationship with Christ, has been hugely elemental to strengthening my trust in Him.  So if you are struggling to make time for your art, stop the excuses and see it as a spiritual pursuit - God will meet you there!

What are you reading?

I just started "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius."

Where can we find your work?

www.margaretcbarrett.com - on the "Media" page you'll have the chance to hear some tracks!

Photo by Jared Tseng

Photo by Jared Tseng