Thursday, June 06, 2013

art demons

I have been easing myself very slowly back into some creative projects the past few weeks. Gardening has so taken over my life that doing any kind of "making" has not been an activity I've been engaged with at all. Since making, doing, and creating is so much of my identity, not doing any of those things has created a strange absence in my life, but I don't feel empty.

I have not been working in my own studio, but in Rae's studio across town. Rae is gone for 6 weeks doing the France residency again, and she is generously allowing me to use her studio as my own while she is gone. I asked her for this favor because  every time I walked into my studio, my only impulse was to turn around and walk back out again.  Right now, my studio is a space that represents all of this struggle, and I don't want to be there. It's oppressive.

Rae's studio, on the other hand, is a wide open and beautiful space. As a practice, I've been going there every day, even if it's just for a couple of hours. Mostly, I've been doing paper cut art, which I have always loved and am currently totally obsessed with. I like to look at as many images as I can before bed so I can have paper cut dreams:

elsa mora
This image pretty well captures how I feel as a creative being right now: I'm sitting on all of this beautiful work I've made in the past, and I have all of this beautiful work ready to pop out of my imagination, but my arms are bound up, too connected to my head, and not my heart.  By the way, I wish I made this piece but I did not.  It's Elsa Mora, one of my paper cut heroes.

Paper cutting has made me come face to face with all of the demons I have created through my artwork.  Put a check next to the ones you have brought into your life:
  • That's not good enough, it needs to be better.
  • Don't waste your time on something that is going to suck when it's finished.
  • That's not matching the vision in your head-- start over.
  • You've spent six hours creating something that you will never be able to sell.
  • That's not as good as Elsa Mora, Peter Callesen, or Rob Ryan, so why are you even trying?
It's interesting having these thoughts while I'm paper cutting, which is basically a leisure activity for me and does not need to be perfect, go to market, or wind up anywhere other than the trash can or on my mother's refrigerator door.  The fact that I like to use artists who are at the top of their game in paper cutting as my own personal bar is not only ridiculous, but bordering on something else quite unhealthy.

I've sacrificed a lot of the joy I find in creating in search of perfection. I've known this for a while, and it has taken quite a toll on my ability to create work that I love. But recognizing this, naming it, and sharing it with you all feels like one little step toward healing.

 This one is mine, with thanks to Pema Chodron. I had to resist the urge to make this piece again, making it better, before I shared it with you. I may, however, take a better photograph of it.