This week, I got a HUGE monkey off my back. I finished all of the pieces for my upcoming art show. It was a feat 50 years in the making. My first and last art exhibit was in 1966. I am pictured at it above -- next to my monochromatic masterpiece.
That afternoon left an indelible memory, which you can read all about in my 2016 Independence Day blog: MY RED WHITE AND BLUE PERIOD
It took me 50 years and the past two-plus years of practicing joy every day to believe that I could make art and find the courage to show it publicly. But that was the easy part. Showing up to myself and the process became the real challenge.
So, I procrastinated. Every single day. Then I pushed the date of the show back, not once but twice. Every day my demons screamed at me, "You?!?! An artist?!? Who are you kidding? Who do you think you are?" But every day, I promised myself I would not bag out on my dream.
Finally, it came down to what my dad used to call Shit or Get Off the Pot Time. If I didn't start making art, there wasn't going to be a show. That's when my angels started to show up.
Prior to giving a talk this spring to a group of artists, art educators, and art supporters for the Art Business Institute, I was interviewed for their online publication -- and I decided to bring up my struggle to call myself an artist. (You can read the whole interview HERE.)
I received this email in response to the interview from Dr. Thea Fiore Blum: "Congratulations to Victoria about her first show. She is an artist, she is real, she does matter, and her mom was wrong!!!" I can't tell you what a much-needed moral boost that became.
You see, for my entire adult life I have been an art dealer, a gallery owner, an art consultant, an art historian, an arts advocate, and a public speaker on the arts. I have promoted the work of emerging arts and underrepresented arts communities. I just forgot about being my own arts advocate. Receiving that shot in the arm encouraged me to create the first piece.
Then my friend, Gay Block, who is an internationally-renowned photographer whom I deeply admire, said to me one day in passing, "I really love your photographs." I hope I acted cool, calm, and collected. But inside I felt like Sally Field at the Oscars! OMG! That meant THE WORLD to me.
Of course all along, Nancy Cintron, who is giving me my first show, has been encouraging me and telling me to "own the show". So, after really taking in the encouraging words of Dr. Blum and Gay, I tried that on for size. It sounded good, but in the end I just kept procrastinating.
Then one day, I had lunch with my dear friend Kim White. Kim and I share the same birthday. When we first met one another, we drove the exact same car and both had dogs named Jack that came to work with us. We also LOVE sports and work in the design field. I never work on a project without Kim's support. She has an unerring eye and I trust her implicitly. I shared with Kim that I was worried about the printing of the pieces -- color correction and, well, just everything. So she volunteered herself to be an extra set of eyes and her husband Richard to print the pieces for me. She later wrote me an email in which she said that she knew how important art was to me, and that she wanted to support me any way she could. It made me cry. But suddenly, I felt like I had a team. I knew Kim wouldn't let me look like an ass.
Which let me feel free to step into the creation process. There was just one more step. The most important step of all. I had to get "me" out of the way. Whenever I do something I really love -- design for clients, write, and mostly speak in public -- something amazing happens. The little fearful anxious egotistic and yet wildly unsure me just disappears. And whatever needs to come through -- designs, colors, words, ideas, hugs, thoughts -- does. It is the most amazing feeling. It is Spirit coming through me to connect and create. I knew that, even with all the human support and encouragement, I couldn't make this art. The Art had to be made.
So, for the last week, I took all the photos I had been culling for the past four months to get them down to my final group for the show, and then I began to get quiet enough to start working with them, and let them start working through me.
It happened. It began to flow.
The show is called Learning to See: Postcards from the Road, 2011 - 2017.
When I was a little girl, I learned about the world through postcards from my father. He sent them from everywhere and told me what he had seen. Throughout the rest of his life, he and I sent one another postcards -- and we kept sharing what we had seen all over the world with one another.
One of the thousands of sweet loving postcards I received from my dad from around the world.
Here's the back story: In 2011, I began photographing again. It was a transformational year of my life, and I was drawn to start capturing this new beginning in photographs. I soon realized that, when I photographed, what was really happening was that I was re-learning how to see. By that I mean, I was allowing myself to see as an artist for the first time since childhood. I had cut off that part of myself, and now I was inviting her back into my life.
The photos in the show chronicle the ways I have been learning how to see for the past six years.
But, I quickly realized, the photos weren't the whole journey. Although I see in images, I always hear stories, poems, verses of songs, little snippets of overheard conversations, ideas. These flow through me when I look at my pictures.
I came to understand that my photographs are the place where the verbal and visual in me intersect. I am both verbal and visual, but it is that intersection which always brings me the greatest joy!
But how to combine the verbal and visual in one piece of art? Should I write on the walls of the gallery? Should I write postcards on the back? How could I convey what I hear when I see.
I began thinking about the art I love. I love printmaking, the graphic arts, and I particularly love mark making -- graffiti, repetitive imagery, hatch marks, etching. I also handwrite a journal every single day -- and I have my whole life. It is one of the ways I hear what I need to listen to -- I see it on paper as it comes off the end of the pen. Often when I write in public places -- particularly restaurants or airplanes, -- people stop to comment on my beautiful handwriting. Well, although mine is nowhere near as beautiful as my father's, clearly I was influenced by his script. When I wrote my cards to him, I was imitating him -- telling him the stories of what I saw so that the cards I sent could become the kind of visual and verbal gifts to him that his were to me. I saw both sides of our cards as pieces of art.
That gave me the idea of playing around with words inside or around my images in ways that felt like our postcards, but in ways that also felt graphic like mark making. Suddenly, it felt like ideas were coming together!
Now I just had to let it all come through me as it needed to, piece by piece. So, for this past week, I locked myself away (except for a walk or two a day) and listened to what I needed to hear become a part of the images. It felt meditative, like chanting or prayer. It was incredibly cool! Then I sent the pieces off to Kim and Richard, so that I didn't have to be my own critical editor.
Yesterday morning I finished!! Cue the marching band, the ticker tape, and the confetti!! I felt elated. Overjoyed. (Next comes the tweaking and the printing. But that's all gravy.)
And on June 10, I will show up in gratitude for the opportunity to take away a very old story of NO and replace it with a new chapter of YES about something I have loved my whole life -- The Making of Art.
But for now, I just feel like basking in having reached this plateau. So, to celebrate, I am going to share four low-res small screenshots of some images from the upcoming show.
OK. Just writing that scared me a little. But really, I have to remember that what I am sharing is the joy of finally reclaiming the joy of art. And that is always worth sharing. . .
Here goes. I hope you enjoy them.
This piece is for Gay:
This is the most recent photograph in the show. I took it last week in South Carolina. It is literally a love postcard to my dad.
This one is for my dear friend Mary Wright, who has always encouraged me to think of myself as an artist. And has always made me feel like I am one.
And this one is just my reminder that all of us, ALL OF US, are artists.
Thanks for letting me sharing this culmination of one part of my joy practice -- and my excitement about a new beginning.
For more information about the show, please click here: ART SHOW