Meraki / by Miachelle DePiano

I saw a meme the other day on Facebook that provided the definition for the word meraki. Pronounced may-rah-kee, it's a Greek adjective meaning:

  1. To do something with soul, creativity, or love.
  2. To put “something of yourself” into what you’re doing.

My personal project, The Art of Living in Arizona, is intended to key in on this very aspect of being an artist. Yes, I want to show that Arizona has a very diverse art culture, and that it's not as underdeveloped as some would make it out to be. However, as I photograph my subjects, whether  in the midst of a discussion, in my studio, or working in their studio, there is one key element they share: meraki.

Some of my subjects are fortunate and have found partners willing to support them in their artistic endeavors. Others find that their muse is their sole lover and soul mate, and at times she is an unforgiving partner. Some accept it as fact; others are not as accepting. Regardless, they are all driven by and committed to putting something of themselves in their work.

The need to create and express oneself is essential to an artist's existence. With each piece of work, a bit of the artist is embedded inside. The need to make the audience feel something, preferably positive, is essential to the artist, but even a negative reaction can be interpreted as a positive. If your audience feels nothing about your work, you have failed.

I created the image above recently for my Project 52 course I am taking. Our assignment was to create a cd cover, using one red balloon. We had no other source of information from which to draw inspiration. No band/artist name, no song title or lyric. I struggled with this. I researched balloon imagery, and if I may say so, most of it is bland and typical. Balloons in the air, single balloons, balloon bunches, balloons filled with water being burst and captured at high rates of speed...Nothing I saw made me feel anything. Meanwhile, in my head, "sinister" kept sticking in my mind.

Finally, an idea began to emerge. Balloons typically symbolize childhood innocence or sweet romance. What about when someone hands you a balloon with a smile, but in reality has something much more sinister? I wanted to symbolize that nothing is as it seems in life, not even something as innocuous as a red balloon. The part of me that is in this image is that this is a lesson I've learned in life, and I know many others have as well. Everything comes with a price, and nothing is free. The question is, what price are you willing to pay?

I shot the image, thanks to my friends Jake and Mike, and had the image I sought. And the entire time, as I was shooting, then editing, this image, the thought was "What if it isn't liked in Project 52?" The answer that rang through my head was "Great! If they love it, great! If they hate it, great!" Why? Because then I've made the viewer feel something, stemming from the piece of me that I put into this image.

The image is done, and it was created with an element of meraki. I can't ask for more...unless of course there is some heavy metal thrash band that loves the image and wants to license it for use. :-) But then we're talking business, not art, and that's an entirely different topic of discussion.