Too much consistency is as bad for the mind as it is for the body. Consistency is contrary to nature, contrary to life. The only completely consistent people are the dead. Consistent intellectualism and spirituality may be socially valuable, up to a point; but they make, gradually, for individual death.
Huxley, Aldous. Do What You Will. 1929.
I stumbled on this quote recently and I just can’t shake it. I think because I identify with it so deeply and that this ‘idea’ has not been encouraged or validated in my training and my quote un quote professional life that seeing it in print was a little rattling–in a very good way!
All through grad school it was ground into me that I should have a consistent body of work-that my style should resonate across every aspect of what I did AND that if I was a painting major that this was the only thing I was ‘allowed’ or that was acceptable to do. As much as I tried to buck that particular vein of thought, it managed to creep in and dog me as I tried to move ahead. I didn’t so much as graduate from my master’s program (I did. With honors.) as endure it. It was more like a punishment for wanting to become a better artist and to someday expect to make a living at it-something I no longer expect to do. Not an easy thing to come to grips with! Some would see this acknowledgement as an admission of failure but I see it as something more liberating and positive than that! It’s time to quit ‘shoulding‘ all over myself.
I started my year out on such a high note with a phenomenal residency at Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts in Wyoming. It turned my practice on its head, allowed me to get to know some incredible artists from all disciplines and left me encouraged to face the possibility of finally walking through that ‘professional’ door. What followed was a series of rejections unlike I have had in any other year. Humbling?? You bet! I know all the things I need to know about accepting rejection-that it isn’t personal, that it isn’t an indictment of my work, that it’s all subjective, that it’s blah, blah, blahblah, blah. Whoop-de-freakin-do-it-still-feels-shitty. And, demoralizing if you want the truth. So. I picked myself up, dusted myself off, looked at my bank account (entering shows costs a butt load of dough!) and realized that this pattern of behavior just wasn’t going to work for me anymore. Coming from someone who has taught other artists ‘professional practices’-and someone who would tell others to hang in there! They can do it! There is no such thing as an overnight success-stick with it! this sounds a bit hypocritical but the truth is the truth-I just don’t care anymore. IDC is a bit harsh but the fact of the matter is that I just don’t want to be that hamster on the wheel that is just trying really, really hard to get where he’s already been-to hang out on the same wheel again the next day hoping for a better smelling cage then next time I get off.
I know it sounds like a doomsday reaction to bad news but it really isn’t-it’s more of a what do I really want? reaction. And I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t want to pay people to look at my work- I am tired of paying (begging) to be recognized, What I really want is to become co-dependently autonomous. Sounds weird, I know, but what this basically means is contributing to and creating financial comfort alongside my spouse. Not doing the same thing but working toward the same goal and actually being able to contribute to the positive not the negative. Everyday that I get to do exactly what I want-which is just create- is a good day-and I want more good days and fewer days feeling like I just don’t measure up, that my ‘brand’ isn’t recognizable, that I don’t fit. I want more days where I can have a sincere conversation with my work and share it with people who are really interested in having that conversation too. Ultimately, I believe that creation is a conversation-an allowing of what needs to be said to be given a voice. I believe this in not just my work but in my life as well.
I am living in a period of flux-with no home, no studio, no job and no idea of what is coming next. I am also learning to listen-to really listen to the conversation happening around me paying attention to what it really is that I need to hear. There are lessons in letting go happening almost faster than I can keep up with them and rather than loosing hope I am loosening my grip and allowing what is to come…well, come! I have always been a firm believer in saying yes to new opportunities, new ideas and fresh starts. I am creating a new conversation/relationship with what I do-where this will take me is undefined but one thing I know is that it will be because I want to do it. In all reality it may mean giving up and saying good-bye to what I do all together-or redefining it in a way that doesn’t look anything like it use to and I am OK with that. OK with living in the ‘and…’, the what comes next, the whatever it’s going to be.
Here’s to the And…?