(I think this picture looks like an album cover)
I had a few firsts last year in my art-life. It was very encouraging to see so many things unfold and to be presented with new opportunities and possibilities as an artist. It left me constantly thinking about and searching for what I can do next. I’m hoping that I can maintain and ride out that energy for a good long while.
With the beginning of a new year, so comes a heavy dose of reflection, introspection and planning. A lot of my alone time is spent doing these things quite regularly, so the time of year doesn’t exactly make a difference to me except for having a tangible marker of time. Now that I’ve had some time off and have settled in a new place, everything in my mind has been trending toward staying on top of things and continuing to define myself as an artist. This has to stay in the top three on my priority list. I anticipate the first half of the year to be busy for me as I will be extra focused on building up my body of work and preparing for shows. A word that keeps popping up in my head is “more.” More of everything. More painting, more writing, more emotion, more color, more ideas, more connections, more visibility. Just, more. At least, this is what I want in my art-life. In my personal life I want less. Much less. Hence the phrase I came up with which I think describes where I am now as a person and artist: “Closed mouth, open art.”
I’ve been a resident of Reno for about 2 years now and I have to say that things still aren’t quite solidified for me yet, especially in my social life which is definitely one of the most important aspects of anyone’s life. That seems to be the only bit that I can’t seem to make work for me in a consistent way yet, and that brings up so many new questions, emotions and anxieties. A big challenge for me is deciding with whom to be open and entrusting. With whom can I truly be myself out here and let down my guard? I can easily do this in my artwork. On canvas I’m an open book, all day. Have at it. The content and emotions I express come from a raw and honest place, but I also see it as separate from me in a way. It’s on a canvas. If someone doesn’t like my art, they don’t have to look at it and I don’t have to know about it. Even if I do know about it, I don’t have to care as much because my art is only an expression, and it’s valid no matter what anyone else thinks. Fuck ’em. As long as I like what I’m doing and am being authentic, I can stand in that. Someone not liking my artwork isn’t a direct hit to me as a person, at least that’s how I see it. However, when I’m open with someone in-person, it’s a different ballgame. That shit counts. To let someone in only for them to bail out, cuts so much deeper than a non-fan of my work. It then becomes a rejection of my self, my time, my heart. I can’t sit here and say that I don’t care about that. Maybe other people can shove on fairly easily and quickly from those kind of experiences (and to them I tip my hat and beg for their secrets), but that type of thing affects me to the core. To me, to have a mutual and genuine connection with someone is one of the most fulfilling things you can have in life. Unfortunately it’s also the rarest thing to find and the riskiest thing to have. It’s a risk that I don’t think I’m as inclined to take as often as I used to.
After a period of genuine openness followed by an inexplicable and confusing rejection, I am now in a period of retreat and my walls are high up. As much as I may yearn for significant, mutual connections something has shifted inside of me and now I am way too guarded and skeptical to do my part to achieve them. I have met people that I like and would consider my friends, but I’m falling back a lot now even from them. As far as romance, I had nothing and wanted nothing for a long time, and that worked for me. But then (oh, “but then” right?) there was one person who became significant to me. I thought it was mutual, and good. I trusted him and let him in, only to watch him pull away then choose someone else. And then I was alone again, and left very unsure. My inclination now is to be cordial and approachable, to still be interested in people, maintain the relationships that seem mutual, and still do whatever I like to do but to be better at compartmentalizing. Is that working for me now? ……I can’t confirm or deny that at this time. So there is a constant tug-of-war within myself about the social part of my life. For now the best thing seems to be for me to be even more guarded than ever to protect myself from most people in general. As the light-skinned wordsmith Drake would put it, “no new friends.” Maybe it’s just a phase? I don’t know. Hopefully, because the lack of something meaningful and consistent is palpable and it’s taking a toll on me. What I do know is that this is what it has to be for me until I feel a little safer to turtle out emotionally again.
So for now it’s closed mouth, open art. Whatever you need to know about what’s beneath my surface will be found on canvas, if you care to take the extra steps to find out. Through my work will have to be the only way for me to connect with others on a deeper level without the insurmountable pain of that connection being broken, ignored or one-sided. The emotions attached to that are ones that I know very intimately, and that is how I know I have to use them in my work. It will be tough, and probably emotionally draining, but I’m looking forward to the type of work that will be produced. My only hope is that the individuals for whom the messages are meant to reach will truly connect with the work, and my self, in a way that I cannot achieve in-person at this time.