On January 2nd I began my one-year residency with the Thomasville Center for the Arts in Thomasville, Georgia. More than a few people asked me why I would want to leave my cute little backyard studio in Tallahassee and drive 45 minutes twice a day to and from South Georgia. It’s true that my backyard studio sure was lovely and working from home provided a certain freedom to set my own schedule and take a 15-minute catnap in the afternoon if I needed to. The drawback is that sometimes that “backyard studio be your own boss” model provides a little too much freedom and if you’ve been reading my blog for awhile you will know that for the past two years I’ve been struggling with some serious fear and motivation issues that have only gotten worse by the freedom (or the isolation) that my backyard has provided.
When you live in a college town it’s easy to begin to nurture a certain amount of negativity toward people of college age. Right now I believe we’re referring to them as Millennials. We have to share our roads, our restaurants and our breathing space with a group of people who are always reminding us that we are aging and who hardly ever move over on the sidewalk to let us pass by without having to step out into the street where one of them will run us over with their car that is clearly more expensive than the one we drive. Where was I? Oh, yes, harboring that negativity.
There is this quote that I have seen on Pinterest and Facebook that reads, “Dance as if no one is watching.” I have a huge problem with this philosophy. It’s not that I don’t agree with it, but I struggle in carrying it out. I learned recently that according to Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project, I am an Obliger with Upholder tendencies. Basically, this means that my personality is such that I tend to require external accountability and rules. This isn’t to say that I don’t have my own internal rules that I live by but I am more successful at completing goals and meeting deadlines if other people or things hold me accountable. For example, I know I am NOT going to get up every morning and exercise on my own, which is why I have a gym membership that I pay for and people who expect to see me in my group exercise classes. If a gallery sets a deadline for an exhibition, I will most likely send in my work early but if I tell myself that I’m going to make 50 cups this week, just as a goal for myself, it probably won’t happen. Along with external accountability, I also tend to rely more on external feedback. This is where the challenges begin.
I remember in graduate school there was SO much feedback coming from every direction. I joke that someone started critiquing a piece of mine and then I told them it was going to be thrown into the trash because it just hadn’t turned out the way I wanted. They continued to tell me what was wrong with it…on the way to the dumpster. Now that I no longer have feedback from peers, sometimes I find myself alone in my studio just standing there thinking about what my next move should be. What if I change this or try something new? What will my customers think? What will the galleries think? Is this too much like my old work, too different from my current work? On bad days I might stand around thinking about how to work more than I actually make things. When I start to worry too much about external feedback I can become paralyzed. This kind of worrying means that as a general rule, I don’t dance. Well okay, sometimes I do dance in my studio as if no one is watching. But only when I close all the blinds.
This week in my studio some great things happened. I made some pieces that may never see the light of day. I’m not sure why I made them or if anyone else will enjoy them. All I know is that I wanted to make these things and I had a fabulous time doing it. I didn’t let myself stand around thinking about the work, I just kept working. It was really, really fun. It’s what making art used to feel like when I was a kid. This may be related to the fact that last weekend, at a wedding, I danced. I danced as if no one were watching. I danced so much my knees ached the next day.
And now I have to spend the rest of my life waiting for the video to show up on Facebook.