Lessons from our first Art Show

In the week following The Southwest Iowa Art Tour, our first ever art show, my husband and I have had many people ask us “How did it go?”  After all the hours of labor, planning, and expense, what was the result?  I would call the show a resounding success, but not in the way we typically define it.  

We learned a lot.  Thank God, for my husband who kept pushing me.  First, for ‘making’ me do the show.  I was ready to bail on it completely, insisting that it was too much work and that I didn’t have enough work to bring.  Secondly, and most importantly, He insisted we take some of my older work, though I protested many times that it was going to be a waste of time.  Turns out, Matt is a genius.  (Don’t tell him I said that). 

The older works are predominantly spiritual in nature.  Further, they employ a sort of surrealism that, in order to fully understand, you must really ‘look’ at the piece.  Art is subjective, meaning that the perspective is individualistic.  In other words, every person that looks at one of these pieces, bring their own unique perspective and interpretation of the piece.  People engage emotionally and intellectually with these pieces, positively or negatively.  I was afraid of the negative.  Mine aren’t works that you will typically find at an art show.  Further, they could be seen as offensive, pushy, or (worse still) poorly drawn.  As terrifying as that seems, one overriding fear I held was that these pieces would forever mark me as that kind of artist.  Forever dooming the work into the column of irrelevance and obscurity.  Not from an egocentric point of view, but where the work would be withheld from the view of those it could help.  

For so long I have struggled to find my place as an Artist.  I neither fit this column nor that, and I have tried MANY different avenues looking.  Perhaps my technique was flawed?  Learned several new ones (and am still learning), but this wasn’t the issue.  Perhaps the market is wrong for these works?  Again, learned new techniques, met new people, and was introduced to new ideas.  And again, not the issue.  Perhaps I wasn’t ‘meant’ to do this?  Stopped making art altogether for a long period of time, but the ideas wouldn’t leave me.  Again, not the issue.  With each new objection explored, the “what was acceptable to create” list got smaller and smaller.  As did the, “whom to share the work with.”  Don’t get the wrong idea, that time was certainly not wasted.  Exploration is how we learn and grow.  Even negative experiences teach us valuable lessons.  

As it turns out, the work that I was too afraid to take were our most engaging pieces.  People spent more time looking at and talking with us about them than any of the wildlife paintings.  What surprised me most about this was that people seemed to perfectly understand their meaning without any explanation from me.  They effected people in a way that was extraordinarily humbling.  These works fulfilled the purpose for which they were created.  

This experience taught me many things.  First, to stop placing restrictions around what to create, whom to show it to, and how to create.  In other words, Create Fearlessly.  If the work speaks, it will speak for itself.  Secondly, my place as an Artist is the same as it has always been.  I am not that kind of artist.  I am me, my artistic voice is mine, so own it.  

Was the Art Show successful?  To me, it was a resounding success.  Not for the intrinsic benefits (there weren’t any btw).  The meaningful conversations and lessons learned made the show worthwhile.  Finding your voice, finding your place, helping people, these things embody success.

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