CREATING ART THAT CHALLENGES CULTURAL STANDARDS.
"Do not fear mistakes. There are none." -Elizabeth Russinko
When I was 9 years old my art teacher Mrs. Patterson sent our class home with an assignment to bring in “found objects” for our next project. I excitedly shared the news with my dad that night (as the daughter of an artist, hoarding/collecting is in my blood).
The next morning he sent me off on my big yellow school bus with a huge canvas LL Bean bag filled to the brim with scrap metal we’d collected from around his glass shop; An old license plate, copper wire, springs and coils, electrical wire, bolts, headlights, and the like.
I couldn’t wait to get to school to share my bag of found treasures that my dad helped me to collect. Later that morning in art class my classmates all pulled out small greeting card envelopes full of their found objects; fallen leaves, bits of string, broken game pieces, and cancelled postage stamps. Suddenly my face felt flush and I wanted to hide – I was embarrassed, I felt vulnerable – why had I been so silly to bring in such a huge bag of strange objects?!
Mrs. Patterson quickly rushed over to me and gushed at the sight of my huge LL Bean bag brimming with found treasures. “How wonderful!” she exclaimed, easing my mind. While the other students in class made leaf collages on construction paper, I built a robot sculpture with headlights for eyes and a license plate torso that opened up like a door.
It hung on the wall in our playroom for many years, an emblem of my creativity and bravery.
That experience was formative for me as a young girl. It helped me to feel confident in being myself, even if that meant going against the grain and being different from everyone else.
It taught me to be confident in who I was and brave enough to be vulnerable, brave enough to be myself, even if who I was, didn’t fit in with everyone else.
Since then almost 30 years have passed, and through it all – college, grad school, my professional career, stay-at-home parenting, entrepreneurship – my mantra has continued to beat inside my heart, “be a voice, not an echo”.
So I will tell you what I tell myself every day. Enough with the “I'm Not Good Enough” lie. Enough with whatever anyone else is doing. Enough with other people's opinions about who you are and what you're about.
Enough with other people's voices in your head telling you lies about not being good enough, not being ready, not being valid. They don't get to decide how you live your life, or what kind of art you make. Only you decide that.
You have work to do, you have a purpose to live. It's in your roots, it's in your center. It can be so scary to share yourself and your work with the world, but you are a maker, it's compulsory. You create because you must, and you share because you must, and then, if you're anything like me, sometimes you're like, "Oh crap, did I just actually share that? Can I take it back?
Now everyone knows I'm a fraud/talentless/weak/not like everybody else (but not in a cool way, in an uncool way)." But you have to make what you make, it's inside your bones and pushing out with every move you make.
Sure, you could just make things you've already seen, things you know other people will like, things that fall perfectly "on trend", like gold pineapples, pink flamingoes, and succulent blossoms. But then you're making what already exists, and as James Victore says, when you "follow the herd, the view never changes".
Vulnerability is the only way towards true connection and making work that matters. Being willing to cut yourself open and pour yourself out, even though you're not always pretty and perfect. Even though you are messy, unfinished, and feel like a beginner.
Even though there's nothing cool about your unfinished, messy self. Even though you’re broken and your story is painful. Even though you think you might be a fraud. Being vulnerable is one of the keys to living your truth and making art that changes the world.
Half of my studio is papered in huge sheets of brainstorming about This (Un)Scripted Life; what matters to me, how I want to serve others, who I want to be in this world, what topics I want to cover in my work, the experiences I've had that have shaped my point of view, how I am communicating those things through my life/work, and my guiding values toward my purpose.
I'm finding the only way to really do it is to be willing to be fully vulnerable in this messy process of becoming. Because the raft is the shore, the journey is the destination, and all those other awesome ways to say, *you* right *now* is the *only* thing that actually exists, as perfectly imperfect as you are.
You are not small. You are not insignificant. You are allowed to take up space and have a voice and tell your story.
Believe you are big and no one can make you feel small. I don't feel small. I know my light shines from deep within, and then out and over and through and around.
I see your light too. Both you and I know that it's big and bright and messily beautiful. So stop playing small, ok? You're big. Be big.
As artists, we have a responsibility to challenge the status quo, to make our work a statement about life as we see it, to change the world. You are the only you that will ever be. You, exactly as you are.
You are the only one who can create the art that will come from you. Who will you touch by sharing your story through your art? What social movement will you support? Whose wounds will you help heal, whose life will you make better?
Artist, changemaker, friend – you have work to do, and people are waiting for you to do it.