I’ve fought with insecurities my entire life, as I think every woman has. Perhaps some of my demons differ from other women’s and I seem to be accumulating more now that I’m a parent. Yay for judgmental parents and the infuriating media for disrupting my peaceful stay-at-home mommy moments!
This particular demon though, is one that I bet a lot of artists deal with whether they admit it or not: am I a “real” artist? By the way, if I’m not a real artist, where are all the fake artists running around? Can I join that club? I bet it would be fun – probably a lot less snobby and most everyone would poke fun at themselves a lot.
Besides, how do you define a “real” artist? I create art, some of it better than others, therefore I am an artist, right? Nope. Validity as an artist is apparently tied directly to how much you’ve exhibited and where, how much you sell – and by extension, what you charge (the higher the better) – and lastly, how you look. Yup, even art is tied to appearances!
Now, since I haven’t really exhibited much (one solo show, a few group ones) and I don’t sell all that much – low points for prices under $100, that leaves only one category – appearance. I don’t have brightly colored hair, wear goth outfits, or pierce/tattoo numerous parts of my body. The truth is, I’m rather boring. Most days I’m running around in jeans and a simple shirt that’s just a tad fancier than a t-shirt. I wish I could blame motherhood for my appearance, but honestly, even in college I looked like an english major had wandered into the art department. It’s certainly not because I have any opinion about said tattoos or piercings – I wish I had gotten a few back in my younger days when it wouldn’t have looked like I was a middle-aged idiot trying to fit in. And truthfully, I hate needles, and both of those activities involve needles. I deeply admire someone who lets a person armed with needles do that kind of work on their body – that takes some serious pain suppression.
Appearances aside, I usually have a nagging suspicion that I’m actually posing as an artist. It’s as if I’m not really, truly one, I just say I am. And judging by the reactions I get when I say I’m an artist, I don’t pose very well. I guess this insecurity is a leftover legacy from college, where the professors never gushed over my work like they did other students’ incomprehensible (to me!) work. What comments I got were usually technical, and more than once I heard a student say in critique “I just don’t get what you’re trying to say here.” I’m not full of angst, I’m not way “out there,” and I don’t try for shock value.
I work with subjects that interest me or that have a personal emotional impact. Even when my work has a deep emotional identity, I don’t like showing it, discussing it, or being exorbitantly passionate about it. That’s just not who I am – and it’s what people seem to expect from an artist. Actually, people seem to expect artists to be some sort of manic-depressive personality – not that any of the artists I’ve met are.
Most days I placidly go on working and ignore my insecurities, but sometimes they rear up their ugly heads and bite. Usually just before something important happens that I’m worrying about anyways.
What does that have to do with this image? Well, since it’s taking me so long to get Project Joy finished, I finally printed out a few 8x10s from the series to show in the current Sow’s Ear Studio group show. They fit the theme nicely and I was happy with how they turned out. Did you know it’s really difficult to get cyanotype to print shadow details that well? This particular image is one that resonates strongly for me – and my inner editing thought process usually takes note of that as one of the better images. The show is almost over and I’m really late getting this posted, but I’m proud of myself: I finally got back in the printing groove.
And while I may not look like a stereotypical artist, I truly feel the most artistic when I’m in print mode. Something about watching the images develop makes an impact on those insecurities.
Note: scanning this image seems to have added a lot of dust. Gak. Must clean the printer now.