Art is terrifying. Words are easier, although still scary sometimes. Poems more so than prose. Yet both of them still come out more fully formed, and so come equipped with a thicker skin, or I do when I make them. My intellect stands guard in some way, gives me a little distance. Just enough to breath.
Art, visual especially, and music as well as I think about this, are different for me; maybe different forms are different for each person. The cliche’ of putting your soul out there unprotected for other people to view and judge, is very real. It’s why, I now realize, that I haven’t been doing as much of it or sharing anything I had done, until very recently.
This started to change when I had to confront my own mortality this year. When I had to make decisions about what I was going to do with the rest of my life. Questions I never thought the whole world would be asking itself a month or two later.
When I was growing up I was always a visual artist, I embraced it, was confident in what I did to some degree. It was part of my identity. I was less secure in music at the time, and spent more years refining those skills in college and after.
When I got older I still did visual art but it was more to accompany my other projects. I did things that didn’t focus on the art, I used it to frame and hold my other works. I’d add it to my book here and there or put it on a webpage in a graphic or an ad, on a video; use it as part of a class, always as an addendum to another project. I think I felt that unless I had the medium I was used to, I couldn’t really do it. So I’d doodle or add a flourish here and there, or I’d save it to a file somewhere. Now I know why.
Doing my art as it’s own end, it’s own creation, is terrifying. Well perhaps not the doing of it, but the showing of it, feels like being vulnerable in a way I have spent a lifetime avoiding. It’s like there is no separation, it’s not intellectual, it’s not teaching or explaining something, it’s not being “useful” in a “must go to work” societal way, it’s this raw expression, just a part of me that exists for no other reason than to exist. By showing it, even in a casual way, invites the possibility that no one will like it at all. Or that they will.
It’s about being seen somehow. I’ve always known this to be true on some level, but it was visceral today. When someone said they liked something, it was so surprising, and so joyous, I felt like tinker-bell coming back to life when someone clapped.
I can’t make art for approval it’s not why I do it, I do art because I love to do it and because, as I’ve learned, I have to do it to survive, like breathing. Even so, at the same time it’s amazing how vulnerable it makes me feel to share it, wondering if anyone will see me, confirm in some way that I’m real, even if, or especially if, I’m not trying to please them. Yep Art is freaking terrifying.
And that’s OK.
April 3, 2020