Michael Littlewood Biddison's "zartifesto" about being and becoming an interdisciplinary artist, is an aural and visual romp woven together with heartfelt and sometimes humorous snippets of life experiences that sometimes feel like loose threads but always end up woven into a larger integrated quilt. One of the major themes, finding and making beautiful things out of whatever is present, especially including the aspects we think of as undesirable (from junk objects to junk experiences), encourages an approach to life and relationships of openness, kindness and curiosity. From humorous early experiences dumpster diving to the magic of growing up in a small town in rural Pennsylvania to observing the dynamics of family life through the lens of a creative project, "Zart" attempts to present an invitation to anyone who wishes it to make their life an ever more creative and beautiful adventure.
This is not so much a book as an experience, a slowly unfolding performance between the covers of a book. It's full of original artwork, poetry, song lyrics, essays, and with links to Michael's music and videos, an underscore of music that leads you on a journey of "Zart, an art of everything from z to a."
Biddison says "I've found that art is most satisfying to me when I feel it's integrating my various parts. Instead of trying to abstract and separate I'm always in the process of including and integrating. Adding up the magic bits into a whole. It usually involves multiple layers to achieve this. Even time. However, I'm not looking to make a collapsed mush soup of indistinguishable parts. I like to keep the separate flavors, but in a harmonic relationship. I want to taste the curry of my painting in with the potatoes of my work along with the salad of my walks next to the sugar and salt of my family life and the wine of my music… something like that anyway."
So it is that this book/experience becomes a 406 course Zart banquet to eat up. Part Kurt Vonnegut, part Laurie Anderson, part Mary Poppins, part Julia Cameron/ Artists Way, it is a great offering for an artist that is just beginning to think of a life dedicated to creative pursuits. It's good also for someone who is looking for examples of people or experiences that are not easily categorizable. It's even great for artists of all kinds that feel they've reached a kind of predictability or staleness in their work. Maybe most important of all, it's a fine pick for people who don't see themselves as artists, but are curious about what makes "those kinds of people" tick. Ultimately, they might discover that what that the stuff that makes them tick is pretty related to the stuff they already love and participate in. It could be canning, flower arrangement, arranging stones in the garden, quilting, car bodywork, family photo albums or fishing in a favorite creek.
It's not so much that what makes us feel alive and engaged with life are different. It's about seeing that that stuff, the things that make our hearts sing, are not only important. They are the center point.