When you have two young daughters of 10 and 12 you can find yourself watching movies, and listening to tunes, that you wouldn’t normally be round. So, on this first day of the Halloween holidays, a minister’s day off and trying to shake a cold, I find myself watching Hannah Montana, The Movie. There are moments of fun, and yes some moments of teen mush, but the finale has a fascinating profundity, if not just for all of us, most particularly for the artist.
Last night in Fitzroy I was “In Conversation with...” a husband and wife artistic collective Melanie Clark Pullen and Simon Maxwell. Simon sang some songs, one an absolute beauty from his own award winning short film and I spoke at length to Melanie about her time in Eastenders and then the making of her Award Winning short movie, Marion agus an Banphrionsa, that we also showed. The great thing about Simon and Melanie is that they are both artists seeking to follow vocation, believed to have something to do with God, in the real world of marriage, bills and babies; a Facebook profile of Melanie’s recently put their lives well when she said something like “left Baby and Toddler to share the set with an ex Bond girl.” Their art is real life.
So how do I get from there to Hannah Montana. Well, I imagine most won’t know so let me give some background. Hannah Montana is really a very ordinary teenage girl called Miley and the fun is her inter changing, at times with great speed, of both personas. Hence, in the movie she has lost her boyfriend and her widowed dad’s new girlfriend through the deceit of her double life. On the stage at the end she can’t live the lie anymore and after one great song pulls off her wig, gives away her secret and goes to leave the stage forever. The crowd, in her dad’s “Nowheresville” hometown try to convince her otherwise and one shouts out, “Hannah’s a part of you, don’t let her go.”
Those are words that anyone who has an artistic vocation within them need to hold dear. Last night, after Melanie and Simon, I spoke to two young artists who are teetering on the edge of giving up the art dream for the seemingly ordinary life. A sensible job seems... sensible... especially when family and friends are suspicious or dismissive and you are worried about unemployment. Is Hannah (the art) a part of you is the fundamental question to ask? I overheard Melanie sharing with one would be artist how she has at times paid the bills by doing other things but when she is on the stage she knows that this is what she was made for. My old Buechner mantra again – “vocation is where your deepest gladness meets the world’s deepest need” – becomes flesh in Melanie’s life.
Melanie had the fame and the wealth for a fleeting time during her few years in Eastenders. Today she is a family woman seeking to be faithful to her loved ones, her faith and her gifts. It is an example to every artist. Some, though very few, will make it to the top of the artform. When you don’t you have got to ask yourself what you are going to do with that part of you that dreams, imagines and creates. As I once said to another friend Juliet Turner you have to deal with your gift. You can’t just hide it under a bushel! I have also watched some try to throw their gifting out damage their souls in the process. Everyone so gifted needs to ask how much that art will a play in their lives but if Hannah is in you don’t let her go. She is a part of you and needs to be nurtured into her rightful place.