I was lucky enough today to spend time speaking with several of my classmates in school. It’s cold and gray and wintry here in New York, and Seasonally Affective Disorder (SAD) seems to have swept through our studios like a depressed flu.
We were talking about the irrational art world in which we find ourselves living and working. Critical voices surround us, pushing us, taunting us, making us doubt ourselves. Often the most challenging faculty are the ones who force us to face new things and take chances. We don’t enjoy it; it’s like being poked over and over again in sore spots. But sometimes it works. My anger and sadness are moving me to make art that is totally new for me. I just don’t know if I like it.
The things we are praised for are crazy and unexpected. Really? You like that? And we wonder: is that genuine admiration or is he pushing my buttons again?
Do you remember macaroni picture frames and woven potholders and pencil holders made of popsicle sticks? What about the paintings we made in second grade that our teachers loved, and our mothers loved, that ended up proudly displayed on the refrigerator? There was joy in that making.
All too often, for us grad students, joy has been replaced by doubt and worry. To say nothing of enormous debt. But joy is what we need to find again. Our joy is what will help us make authentic art that begins with what’s real inside us. To hell with everything else.
If my next body of work is based on potholders, or rainbow paintings with glitter, don’t shake your head. Congratulate me.