Sunday, February 27, 2011

Balancing Act

We, you and I, are encouraged, possibly from the day we stagger our first steps across a room, to compare our abilities against another. We get an A in elementary school when others get a B. We get a blue ribbon when others receive purple. A check is presented, and others get either a larger check or none at all. The more “other-oriented” comparisons we get the more we – and others - understand ourselves as Good-Better-Best. This happens in very nearly every facet of our lives, from running laps to creating art.

At the same time, as creative individuals, we are encouraged to find ourselves, to delve deeper and deeper into truth; our truth, someone’s truth, the Truth of the Ages. It is suggested we ignore the opinions of others and do what our hearts tell us to do: to scribble unconsciously, to throw, scoop, or fling as our inner explorer demands. We search for our way; not a mentor’s way, not a teacher’s way nor the way of any other human that came before us (as if all other creative acts are passe somehow). We head into the jungle dreaming of finding Atlantis, Mr. Livingstone, or at least some small evidence of sasquatch.

©2011  Patricia Scarborough  Last Glance  12x16 Pastel

These two facets, the creating and the comparison, cause an oxymoronic situation that we as artists must deal with every time we step to the easel, the potter’s wheel, the writing table, loom or sewing machine. Those of us who have a desire to make a living from our creative work (or at least pay our own expenses now and then) are given the task of balancing this wobbly scenario: Be yourself, but not so much that the rest of us can’t like you.

This is on my mind now because I’m preparing for a solo exhibit, and also because it’s the season for juried exhibitions. Both require equal amounts of Intrepid Explorer vs a Please Like Me! attitude.

And that’s the paradox, isn’t it?

So far I’ve been lucky in that what I love to paint, and how I paint it, have been fairly acceptable to the public and the jurist. This means I can continue to do what I do in the way I do it and not feel like a lone voice in the wilderness. Having said that, I also know that there are avenues for me to explore which may not meet with the same acceptance.

©2011 Patricia Scarborough  Holding Time  12x16 Pastel

To remain in the circulation of the viewing public is the desire of most of us, certainly. Very few of us would bother if we’re ignored, or if the reaction to our work is so bland it doesn’t register. Exclusivity works best when we’re on the inside looking out.

But while there is comfort in acceptance, there is also – for me - need for discomfort, for challenge and growth. I'm not after the source of the Nile, but I do wonder about it.

I’ll figure it out. It won’t happen tomorrow, or even soon.

How do you make it work – or do you?


Hannah said...

You've take on a great topic with great honesty Patty. This same struggle played out at a high volume for me this week. The solution I'm slowly finding my way to is the metaphor of the sailboat which tacks back and forth with the wind--but which also has a fin or centerboard underneath which offers resistance against the water.
I think we're dealing here with one of those great paradoxes of life:)

Patty said...

Wow, Hannah, that metaphor is perfect, especially since I love to sail. It's comforting to know I'm among friends on this strange journey.

soozie said...

OOoh Patty !! This was stated with such grace & honesty. Within discomfort, or dancing on the edge is where learning & evolution occur & you are able to bring it all together in your painting & in your words.
To remain open & listen & move into the risk .... ahhh that is art and life .

Patty said...

Soozie, you give me goosebumps!Thank you for your thoughtful comments. Dancing on the edge...oh my yes.

Karine said...

Look at these two gorgeous paintings. Your words definitely rang true for me. That eternal struggle that I have felt - based on an assumption that no one will like my abstract work, and that it won't sell. And yet, that is the work that feels the most like ME.

love ya!

Patty said...

Oh Karine, your abstracts are gorgeous! Sending you good vibrations for your upcoming solo show!