Posted on March 15, 2012 - Filed Under 2012, art, art therapy, Gary, self reflect
I have had all kinds of burbling at the recesses of my mind… those places that often don’t perk up until I do something quite unexpected and beyond my comfort zone. It ties in to all the ways I have experienced “Art” in my life, the ongoing messages, between my immediate community, my studies of art in the past, and my own self belief. (There she goes again, “Evelyn, what is it that you believe about yourself?” “I am getting to that bit in a moment!”) I took a huge step and submitted two of my pieces of art to the Tampa Nude Nite Exhibit, now on it’s 4th year in Tampa – its 15th year in Orlando. I paid the submission fee, half worried I was too “amateur” for any serious consideration, and fully expected that to pay for a ticket to the show after the rejection letter. Instead, I got this lovely greeting, identifying both pieces as passing the juried panel and gaining entry. With it, a fabulous little badge listing my name with the title “Artist,” and three additional tickets so that I could bring friends along each night of the three night exhibition.
There was a part of me that felt proud and couldn’t help to express excitement and showmanship about the upcoming exhibit. Yet, suddenly those burbles rumbled about all the ways I had somehow conned the jury into taking my work as “ART.” (Don’t you just love those little voices that struggle to celebrate the amazing things we do?) Compliments I failed to take in as genuine fell down amidst the dust of the warehouse. It was a mix of excited (and somewhat braggart) and fearful. What if people are just being kind? What if I am perceived as not serious. The 16 year old who drove to NYC with her dad, to attend “College Day” at Pratt, tugged at my arm. The 16 year-old whose joy at being “creative” was smothered by a room filled with hundreds of young adults, carrying “Portfolios” of stunning art… the burn of that 16 year old wearing a face of overwhelmed dejection, who hastily lost her courage and insisted they leave and go back home, hazed by the competitiveness and criticism that fogged the room. The disparaged anger of the 20 year old whose grade in an art class was dropped from an “A” to a “B” because she wasn’t “Majoring” and obviously wasn’t serious about art. Returning was the anxiety of her undergrad program (where she minored in Art) grating against that vulnerable young woman who had only gotten her first exposure to formal training her senior year of high school. And so, instead, Art became a hobby, a survival too. I used it to secretly speak my heart, or used it like a hard run, to let go of whatever held me… but what I “wasn’t” was an “artist.” All my work with my Creative Soulcare groups wavered – what I “was” or “wasn’t” tromping around amidst my vulnerability. And then…
… And then, the playful, delighted part of me found it curiously fun to watch people walk by and look. “Is it possible?” that scared, vulnerable part of me peeped, “… that all of them were WRONG?” That all that history is what GOT ME HERE? And where was it that I decided I couldn’t be an artist, and where did I trick myself back into goofing around with color and paper and ink and drawing again? And what if it truly is a gift – expressed in a way that is uniquely me – and has nothing to do with what anyone “thinks” about what it is, because none of that actually defines me. And… that burbling, after a good week or two, has settled into a new confidence in the parts of me that are beautifully creative. I PLAY with color, my story is sprinkled in little places between the layers and colors and lines. My nature, expressed in something I can put OUTSIDE of myself, poignant memories, a marker of the moment of THAT creation. And so, that delighted playful part of me became spectator, commentator, spy, and “artist.”
I spent my three nights both mingling and watching. I discovered some similarity among spectators. Some would slide right by, apparently unmoved by my work. Others would stare at it a moment, then continue their artist revelry. There were observers who would take out their cell phones and take pictures of my work, leaving me to wonder how my image would show up in the world. Then there were a small group of individuals who would look at it, back up… get near and after a pause or two (I could almost count) their head would drop to the left. The “head drop” would always stimulate curiosity in me, and sometimes I would get brave enough to approach and ask what caught their attention. What I most loved about that experience was the story that would tumble out excitedly, or the observations being made about what the “artist” may have been trying to express. One woman, snapping pictures and bobbing her head back and forth, ear to ear, in observation, explained how she loved the piece because she loved Paris. She continued to explain that the woman was moving towards the energy of Paris, full of culture and music and art. Several people shared how they got curious about the article I had used for my dancing woman, wondering if there was some reason for it. One man tried to guess what paper I had been reading. Another couple, full of picture taking and discussion (and I later learned they were discussing whether they buy it or wait to check out my gallery for other possibilities. GALLERY- WHAT?) She shared how she was from NYC, and she had a fondness for the NY Times (which she had properly identified in my work, as I really love the compact-ness of the text). She described, almost like poetry, her experience on the subways, crammed in a car with others, and the process of reading her NY Times, folded like origami in her hands. She felt the city in my work, something I don’t feel at all, but took in, triggering my own memories of prancing through NYC with Gary and exploring amidst the bustle and noise. Others would find the messages hidden, and spend time searching for other pieces and parts of the “truth” in the piece.
As I picked my work up from the Gallery-Warehouse the next afternoon, wandering the space with my camera to capture the closure I was feeling, I felt a bit like it had all been part of some strange hallucination… my camera capturing evidence that somehow I hadn’t just woken up. I realize I could actually risk working bigger. That playing doesn’t have to happen in the safety of a bunch of my soulcare friends… Risks, again, add to the adventures I have been finding these last few years. Risks bring me back into being, being present really. The courage to send my two pieces to the curator, to show up each night, and even to talk to people in that crowded room full of stunning art, and seasoned artists, and not turn around and go home. I have come a long way on this journey… in ways that only bring me closer to knowing myself; unraveling all the knots my experiences have created and essentially adorning myself with the new patterns of beliefs and experiences. What a gift.