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Getting Out of My Own Way

Being a part of an art show or showing my work in a gallery setting is something I enjoy a great deal. But seem to do it only rarely. There are two elements regarding the exhibition of my finished artwork that have either eluded me or I have not been able to wrap my head around. Whether by eluding me or confusing me, they have become increasingly annoying obstacles for me as important components of being a (successful) working artist.

An art show in my future:

Recently, I screwed-up my courage and asked to have my work considered for display in a local gallery space here in Jyväskylä. The sage advice of my friend Dubravka was in the back of my head saying, “What’s the worst they can say, no?” This simply question works well within my tendency to try and prepare for all possible contingencies. While my natural tendency can prove to be mentally and emotionally debilitating when allowed to run amok, it works with this simple question. I mean, seriously, what could be worse than ‘No.’?

No. You’re work is stupid and ugly and everyone hates you too.”

No. You’re artwork is pure, unadulterated crap and you should be ashamed of it and of yourself for creating it.

No. Make a bonfire of your work, NOW. Here’s a match.

Believe me, I have more loaded-up and ready, but I think you get the general drift of where I can go regarding my need to prepare for all possible contingencies. In fact, I have a harder time believing it when people say, “Yes! We would love to show your artwork!

Long story longer, I’ll be showing my work in a small gallery space in January 2021. It’s official and on the calendar.

Art show parameters:

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I create my artwork first and foremost for myself. To put it bluntly, creating artwork is my therapy. A healthy Katie is a an art-creating Katie. The idea of taking my deeply personal artwork and altering it to fit within a concept or theme that is completely unconnected to me or my artwork feels odd. Then there is the idea of changing my artwork to fit a physical space. This has never quite computed for me.

When researching art shows to possibly enter, I get mentally stuck on individual art show thematic parameters. One art show may have a theme concerning water life, or oceanic environments. Another art show may have a parameter that dictates that the art work be of a certain size, or a specific art medium. My artwork isn’t easily categorized in these ways. Nor is it made with themes that I don’t wish to work within our around.

Who is it for?

I’m fiercely protective of the hows and whys of my own art creation. It doesn’t seem natural for me to create artwork that is made solely for an entry into an art show. Doing so would make me feel as though I were creating art for others first and myself second. That’s not how I create art.

So it feels as though I am presented with the choice of making artwork the way I want to make it, or to create artwork specifically for someone or something else. All in the hopes that someone will pay attention to me and my artwork. Then perhaps buy a piece of my work. This made me the entire art show/gallery concept seem deceptive to me. I’m rotten at lying too.

Shipping artwork to art shows:

When I’m looking at different art show call for entries, I also have to consider the shipping costs of my artwork. This can be quite costly. And there is no guarantee that my work will sell or win a prize either. So, I may just be out 200€ in shipping (and return shipping) and have nothing to show for it, except an addition to an Exhibition Page on my website.

I do know that the exposure from various art shows can help to build a following of people who like my artwork. These people might buy my artwork from me personally, or through my website. In showing my artwork along side other artists, those artists then see my work and come to know who I am and what I do creatively. There are some definitely great benefits to showing my artwork in art shows. At present through, the shipping of my work, coupled with some of the complexity of my pieces (so, many, moving, parts) is proving cost prohibitive for me.

Around, through or over:

It seems as though I’ve really hobbled myself in regard to showing of my artwork to the public in a gallery type setting. I totally agree with this assessment. And it bugs me big-time. This inability to just shut-up and create artwork to enter into art shows keeps my artwork here with me in my workspace. Or showing my artwork on digital platforms such as my website, shop, and Instagram. These are important places to have a presence, but it shouldn’t be the totality of my exposure to the public. Showing my artwork would give me an opportunity to connect with more creative and artistic people. Being part of a larger community would be great.

The gallery space in which I will be showing my artwork has no space available to display three-dimensional artwork. All of the work is displayed on the walls. On the surface, this would seem like the last type of gallery space in which I would seek to show my artwork. I’ll admit, I wasn’t quite sure about it myself. Initially, I started thinking about ways in which to just hang my three-dimensional work from wires. But that seemed lazy. When I let my mind wander, it began playing around with different methods of displaying my artwork. This was surprising, but it shouldn’t have been.

Creative problem solving:

I sat down and started doing a little list-making. There are pieces of artwork that I have that I’ve not shown previously that I thought could be displayed on a wall. My mind kind of just started working away at the challenge of showing my three-dimensional work in a two-dimensional setting. In short order, I had five separate ideas for display that I like a great deal. Each of these ideas utilizes tools, materials and supplies that I have on hand, or that can be gathered at no or low-cost.

It’s what happens to you when you’re not paying attention:

What I found surprising, especially given the fact that I’m not a person to create art for a space or theme not of my own design, is that my mind began pulling in different un-trodden paths regarding my larger, paper mâché pieces. Not exactly un-trodden. My mind was pulling me back to sets of sketches done for pieces that I have not created yet. The more I looked through these sketches, the more I found that they fit within personal themes I’ve been working on. While at the same time, solve some of the ‘walls only’ display parameters.

Living in Finland has changed the way in which I create my artwork. The physical environment of the city I live in began making its presence known in some of the sketches that I had set aside. Realizing that my immediate environment was coming through in my artwork and sketches for new artwork didn’t seem all that important. Most of my artwork is wrapped up in my personal memories. The thing is, my personal memories are increasingly tied to the people and places in Finland. The sets of sketches that I mentioned are all, in one way or another, pulled from my immediate environment.

In the end:

None of what I’m experiencing with regards to art shows is particularly earth-shatteringly or unique. Everyone, not just creatives and artists go through similar types of personal challenges. And I know that regarding some of my personal problems, I’ve taken the longer, more difficult road. To a great extent, entirely on purpose. But it’s nice to be in a place now where I feel as though I’m figuring out things so that I can be who I want to be, how I want to be and where I want to be.

Thank you for reading, and I will see you again soon,

Links:

Beneath Between & Behind:

Rush: Beneath Between & Behind, Fly By Night (1975). I’ve always liked the cymbal work on this particular song. It’s tight when it needs to be, and crashy-splashy when it needs to be. This is also the first album in which Neil Peart was the drummer and lyricist. This song was also the first in which Peart wrote the lyrics and Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson wrote the music. Fly By Night was an important album for Rush. The way in which they worked creatively lyrically and musically changed for them as a group, propelling them in a bit of a different direction than they had been previously. While writing this post, this particular song kept running through my head.

In My Time of Dying:

Led Zeppelin: In My Time of Dying, Physical Graffiti (1975). This is my favorite Zeppelin song. It’s not really a Zeppelin song though. Remember, Led Zeppelin stole from black rhythm and blues musicians with both hands!  It’s a traditional gospel song. Here’s a version by Blind Willie Johnson, under the title, ‘Jesus Make Up My Dyin’ Bed‘. Bob Dylan also did a version of the song as well. Josh White’s version is particularly lovely. ANYWAY. John Bonham’s cymbal work on this song was and is amazing to me. I love how jangly it gets, it’s almost like the entire song is crashing out of a drawer in the kitchen with all the music seeming to hit randomly all over the floor, but it’s just tight as hell!

Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic

The Police: Every Little Thing She Does is Magic. Okay. I know. This song is a little too ‘pop’, but hear me out. Stewart Copeland has this amazing finesse to his cymbal work that I have always found insanely fascinating. He’s not a basher and a crasher when it comes to his cymbals. He plays his instruments with a level of dexterity and musical sensitivity that some drummers will never achieve. Each part of the cymbal is represented in his work. Copeland can transform each of his cymbals into distinct voices within the musical composition. It’s never too much, it’s never too little.