A number of years back I heard the philosopher James Elkins speak. He described himself as a failed painter and, at the time, I thought this was a strange way to see ones self-in terms of failure. He was speaking on his work The Domain of Images, and this failure was a lead in to how he ended up doing some of the work he did. Makes sense. I still find it strange to look at failure as a descriptor. Until now.
I have made a huge decision-and it wasn’t as painful as I thought it would be! I am a failure. At least as a painter. That doesn’t mean I won’t be painting ever again, it just means that I have made a major decision to move away from my ideas of a career as a visual artist. In this last year I have done a lot of shedding. Shedding of ideals, dreams, obligations, irritating people, bad ideas, relentless pursuit of acceptance (of my work AND my person), time sucks, life sucks, and-in general-things that don’t make life better and are a drain rather than a support. Along with this I have decided to add ‘art career’ to the list. And you know what? I am so. OK. withit. #sookwithit.
This doesn’t include throwing the baby out with the bathwater-if the opportunity presents itself I will say yes (to certain things) but I am not throwing my money and time and self worth at something that no longer has an allure for me.
Oddly enough it was a very light feeling choice. I had been invited by a friend to exhibit work in her church. This is a weird request in and of itself because I don’t, typically, make ‘churchy’ kind of work. I deal with issues of sexism, war, aging and sexuality-things that don’t normally go hand in hand with the church crowd. I hear it has been well received and talked about at length. Yay. What is interesting about this show is that there was a single piece that I wanted to include-one which directly addressed the role of women in the church and was one of my favorite mixed media works. You think I could find it? Have I mentioned that 99% of our belongings are in storage? I searched like mad to find the piece but thanks to the bizarre labyrinth my husband constructed in our storage unit that defied both logic and the organizational structure I put in place-it has been incomprehensibly lost until we unpack (which ain’t gonna be for a while).
Anyway-this show is a cross section of my work and as I looked at all these paintings together in one place I really thought “not too shabby”. I also thought that this was only something I do. Something to fill time. Fill space. Just filler and not, ultimately, the definition of me. And, easy as that I was able to let it go. All of it. If this means I have failed then I will add that line on to my resume. Failed Painter, 1998-2014.
Failure is a word I have a hate/hate relationship with-it implies an end. An end to trying, An end to worth. In my last post I shared how I drilled into my students that to describe your work, ideas or whatever as failure that you are imbuing a lack of value that demeans and denigrates. Which is true. Which makes it doubly weird for me to even consider embracing this title. But, what if, just what if, in freeing myself from the burden of ‘success’ I might just find a new path in the right direction. What if acknowledging that it has been willfulness to see ‘things’ happen that has kept me from seeing where it is I am really meant to be?
I am still working through this process and if I can find a better word than failure I will gladly adopt it-until then I am embracing it because it is giving me the freedom to be open to whatever comes next! And, this is nothing but a good thing.
OH, and before I forget-the final confirmation arrived this week-one last rejection letter letting me know I was turned down for a grant to help support my studio practice. It was definitely an ouch moment but also an answer to the question I had laid out about what to do next. Had it come a couple weeks ago I would have continued to plow forward in my relentless pursuit of my so called career. Timing is everything! I am embracing the no and turning instead to an unknown future-one that is open and free from imposed restrictions.
As I go forward, I am focusing on a new project-the Rejection Chronicles. I have found that, in my own journey, rejection is playing a key role in altering and determining future choices. Rejection is fraught with negative implications but the more I look into rejection itself so much can be learned! I am hoping that the interviews I will begin posting towards the end of the month will prove to be enlightening and encouraging.
We have ALL been there and to learn from others can be a powerful tool. I look forward to sharing Rejection Chronicles with you in the coming weeks!
In the mean time-if you have an artist, speaker, writer or any other creative you would like to hear talk about rejection drop me a note or leave a comment and I will consider adding them to the list!
AND, remember, just do the work you were created to do (no matter how small or big)-even if the world doesn’t accept it at first. You were created to do the work ONLY you can do and it is simply marvelous!
Enjoy the AND because that is where the journey is happening…