I’ve finally gotten around to adding selected works from my show, “ever-present,” from this past June. The work won’t be new to those who follow me online or have seen it in-person, but to anyone that’s been waiting for a more in-depth post about the show – I thank you for your patience. I have so much gratitude and appreciation towards everyone that took the time to visit Reno Art Works during the show’s run, as it was a presentation that I took very much to heart. I think this was probably the first time in my burgeoning art career where I felt very emotionally attached to how people were going to respond to the work. Up until this show, I think that I’ve been able to maintain a healthy level of detachment: invested enough to care about my work and to share it, but not so much that my ego would be bruised if someone didn’t like it. I think that I was so nervous and affected this time because of the subject matter. With ever-present, I directly addressed some intense emotions from points in my romantic life. I’ve certainly touched on it before in my work but to be honest, I didn’t delve that deep within. I deliberately kept the topic close to the chest because for so long I wasn’t sure that I wanted to have that level of transparency with the world. Perhaps I was ashamed of those feelings. Showing vulnerability is one thing, and it is a major key to the work that I do, but I don’t want to appear weak. It’s all fun and games until someone breaks your heart and you’re told that you have to “just move on.” Then what?
There’s something about growing up as a black woman that makes one feel like you can’t, or shouldn’t, express sorrow or anguish over losing a romantic partner – especially if it’s a man. “Niggas ain’t shit,” “Dick comes a dime a dozen,” “I can do bad all by myself,”…you know the drill. There’s a sort of pressure to always appear like you have it together and that you’re impenetrable. And if you’re stuck on a man, then well…you a weak bitch. Plain and simple. I don’t think that I’m weak, I just have an extremely hard time letting go of special people. And I don’t want to be judged negatively for that. Suffice it to say, I don’t have an easy time admitting or working through heartache. I have very supportive friends and family that I can talk to, but shit, there’s a deep seeded sadness over some of these experiences I’ve had that I would never express to them even. It made sense to me to keep a lot of my struggles with matters of the heart to myself. However, over the years I’ve learned that sometimes no amount of pulling it together and shoving on can change how you feel about someone. In a case like that the best you can hope for, is to make different decisions moving forward. Because if you were able to reach that level of openness with a person, where any action they take can affect you that deeply, you can’t take that back. There’s no casually glossing over an experience like that. They’re a part of you now, bruh, whether you get over the person or not.
As with a lot of people, I find myself confused yet fascinated by romance and the part it plays (or doesn’t play) in my life. Since moving 3000 miles away from my hometown almost 4 years ago, I’ve hit the six year mark of being without any committed romantic relationship and I entered my 30s. I say that in order to provide some context to where I am in life, not to pity myself, for the record. Though I don’t consider myself to have a particularly strong desire to couple-up (but I’m mostly open to it), I do find myself constantly making observations about couples and singles, and my place within the ever-changing dating landscape. I write about it in my journals A LOT. There are many years-worth of journal entries where I’ve written a plethora of positive, forlorn and complicated passages about my romantic life and what I’ve picked up from observing things around me. I mean, it’s probably obsessive at this point. Those journal entries provided the backdrop for the work in ever-present. I think the combination of the isolation I struggle with in my (fairly) new home, navigating through the end of a romantic involvement that was a game-changing experience for me and falling into heavy self-reflection through old journal entries brought me to a tipping point. Just writing it all out or talking about it wasn’t good enough anymore. I decided that it was finally time to start addressing some of these things through color.
So did being more intentional about expressing these private thoughts and emotions through my art help me get over some kind of emotional hump? Did I learn anything? Yes and no. I did learn to be less afraid to be this open in my work. Extending myself in this way allowed me to connect with others on a deeper and fulfilling level. The outpouring of compassion and tenderness I received in response to the work was staggering. I suppose I knew that no one would be outwardly rude about it, but I didn’t expect as much positivity either. Opening up and sharing myself, made strangers feel safe to open up to me in a way that probably would’ve never happened any other way. To be able to connect with people through my artwork, and to have those moments to offer comfort to one another about very personal and sensitive topics regarding matters of the heart was a life-affirming experience. I think I must have needed that as much as they did. I am thankful to all of the visitors for being so understanding and kind to me, they made it easier for me to get through it and to feel encouraged about what I’m doing as an artist. It’s an incredible feeling to know that I can offer a perspective that people find refreshing, authentic and relatable. I definitely have a little more relief knowing that the personal experiences I touched on were not uncommon. The only detractor is that I wish all of this helped me improve my current outlook about my personal dealings with romance/dating. I still struggle a lot, and although I discovered that art-making can be a good outlet for me, just having a release isn’t enough. But I suppose that’s a completely separate issue that I won’t talk about here. At any rate, please visit the gallery page for ever-present to view some of the stand-out pieces with accompanying captions where noted. The captions are either direct quotes from my personal journals (in the same vein as my short “Slump” series), quotes from personal conversations or were found.
As always, I would love to hear what you have to say about the work, this blog post or if you have something on your heart that you need to bare. Leave your thoughts in the comments section.