Sorry I haven’t posted in so long. I have a whole list of reasons for my absence, but mostly it’s that I’ve been too busy. Too busy caring about what other people will think of my work to make any work. I’ve been paralyzed with self-doubt and fear, worse than my years in undergrad sitting through another grueling critique.
“It’s so… trite,” were the words of my art professor in regards to a felted piece I made with an owl on it. Now I made this piece BEFORE owls came back into fashion and you could wear them on shirts, leggings, and socks and pour salt and pepper from ceramic owl shakers into an owl shaped bowl and eat your delicious whatever with owl chopsticks. You’re welcome.
Despite how crappy I felt after this particular critique, I still brought that felted owl bag with me out in public. The first day I was out shopping I had three people ask me where I got it. I probably should have just sold it to one of them, but I still had that lingering feeling, that word “trite” hanging over my head like an unrelenting rain cloud. It just wasn’t good enough, even for the complete stranger who had to know where I got it. I eventually gave it away to a friend, but my love for putting animals on things has never gone away.
I’ve often sketched out designs for tapestries or paintings that feature animals, stars, moons, and my passion for adding just a hint of sparkly gold. But then my art school critic challenges me to consider just how trite it is. Where is the concept? The social/political/environmental struggle? Where does it talk about the important topics of our times like gun violence, equal rights for women and trans people, and justice for the lives of young black people that were violently taken away?
I know what my work means to me, and what I want it to mean to the viewer. My work is a reprieve, an exhale, the brightness of moon light on a dark, cold winter night. My art illustrates the beauty and magic that still exists under the surface of the harsh realities of current events. It’s not naivety, it’s not delusion or denial, and it’s not even trite. My school had a motto: “Learn the rules to break the rules.” I may have lacked the level of conceptual understanding my teacher wanted me to have, but I gained the technical knowledge to create what I’m here to make.
I normally don’t create New Years resolutions because I feel like life is always a work in progress, and positive change doesn’t have to wait for the first day of the year. And like everybody else who loses motivation for their resolutions, I hate the feeling of guilt when I fail. However, I think this is the year I learn to stop giving a s**t what other people think of my work. Not everyone is going to like it and that’s fine. I can’t let it affect me personally. There’s lots of art out there that I don’t like, Instagram accounts that I don’t follow, but those artists are still making. My only responsibility is to make my art. And to other artists who doubt themselves and their work, you need to make your art too, because there are people in this world who need it, whether it’s trite or not.