Two years ago I was standing in a stuffy cement room, with hot spotlights pointing on my nervous face, a microphone in front of me, andan art gallery packed with hundreds of people who had gathered there for one reason- me. This was the opening night of my MFA Thesis show (which stands for Master of Fine Art), a night that I had been working toward for three long years…and I was about to open my mouth and speak about my work and my thesis paper. Terrified, with heat patches forming on my neck, I began a speech that launched me into an art career that has lead me down a crazy road of research, adventure, and drawing for the past two years.
In a nutshell, the thesis speech, paper, and show from that night had to do with a little thing in the world of conservation biology called "rewilding". I decided to push this theory of rewilding further into ecological conservation by incorporating community building and art-making into its stepping stones....Now I won't bore you with the details, but in a nutshell, rewilding is basically large-scale restoring, and protecting wilderness areas and natural processes while reintroducing apex predators and keystone species back into ecosystems in hopes of recreating natural environmental balance. On a human level, rewilding is a holistic way of life, calling us back to our hunter-gatherer ancestors' understanding of the connectivity of nature, the balance of life on Earth. It is the undoing of domestication, placing equal value on all creatures and releasing human control over nature. It is also an individual call to return to a more natural or wild state.
So this lead to a crazy idea…why not take myself on a journey of “rewilding”?
The idea percolated in my mind for about a year and half, and during that time I wrestled constantly with fear, doubt, and telling myself that this was an irresponsible and completely stupid idea. A tiny blonde, 27 year old lady, solo traveling, not working a full-time job, and not knowing where this idea would end up? Just go?
Like a little neighbor knocking on the door of my mind, the idea kept coming over, asking for teaspoons of sugar so that it could be baked into something real.
One day last year, after dealing with a draining job, a draining relationship, and a draining living situation, (not to mention and drained bank account), I found myself at a point that I think I know now as “my wit’s end”. I was over it. Over the way my life was going, over being stuck, over everything that society was implying that I should be as a white female from San Diego, over the way I was consuming things as a member of a Capitalist society, over my spiritual confusion, and over the personal darkness that my life had been for so long. So I decided to give in, and give my idea a teaspoon of sugar.
And I released myself to dream.
This journey would be my experiment in actually living out the ideas in my thesis paper by enacting rewilding on a personal level, bringing about communal awareness of changing environments and action through art and lifestyle. It would be a leap into the unknown and a documentation of my own transformation into a natural and holistic lifestyle…which made me laugh having just remembered that the last time I had pitched a tent or built a fire was during my Girl Scout days!
During the following weeks, I continued to give myself space to dream and I watched a plan begin to blossom. The plan flowered into deciding to solo travel from the border of Mexico to the border of Canada and back, living out of my van and camping at State/National Parks…and also WWOOFing (World Wide Organization of Organic Farmers)… which is pretty sweet because farmers will let you stay on their property for free in exchange for 4-6 hours of work a day!
All of this was getting pretty exciting! I decided that along the route, I would illustrate the coastline and watch its changing patterns, flora, and fauna from border to border, and then I would compile these sketches into a book!
This book idea then lead to the creation of a Kickstarter campaign called “The Rewild(her)’s Journey”, where I pitched the idea of the journey and the book.
The week before launching the Kickstarter, I found myself in the familiar darkness of fear and doubt talking to me from every angle in my mind. This whole thing would fail. Every professional artist out there is going to watch you fail and then galleries won’t want to work with you. Nobody is going to give you money for this, why should they? This is a terrible idea.
For some reason though, when something brings on this much fear and doubt, I tend to leap forward into warrior mode, stubbornly working through fear and fighting for the dream. After going with my gut, coaxing fear into the back of my mind, and realizing I had nothing to lose, I threw myself into the campaign. It took a lot of hard work and vulnerability; actually, it took several meltdowns of streaming tears over my computer believing that all had failed. It also took the support and faith of hundreds of friends, strangers, and brands that I previously did not know!
A month later, I found myself sitting on the floor of my van on a cliff overlooking the Cardiff tides. I had a coffee in my hand and a map spread out on the floor, planning. I was over-funded and ready to hit the road.
I wish I had the time and space to tell you all about the journey from the border of Mexico to the border of Canada and back, the meltdowns, struggles, low-points, enlightenment, adventure, bravery, and beauty of the it all, but I guess it would all lead to the same point…if there is something in your life that you are afraid to do, you should probably just quit your b.s. and do it! You have the power to change your life right here, and right now.
Furthermore, this journey has left me convinced of the truth I spoke into the microphone to hundreds of people the night of my MFA thesis show. The truth is that world-wide environmental change will only occur with the bravery of individuals learning how to handle fear, through rewilding journeys, through forming communities, and embracing creativity once again. I found this truth in T. S. Eliot’s famous quote, “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” I think he was speaking to the heart of what my whole thesis was about.
And I’ll leave you with this- please get away and lose yourself in nature once in a while. She will embrace your lost self and return it to you new and radiant, because she it the heart of the Divine.
For more of Marissa Quinn's art and the full story behind the Rewild(her) Journey, check out marissaquinn-art.com.