Sunday, July 28, 2013

Something Worth Sharing

At a recent Artists' Lab* retreat we focused on the balance between pride and humility. The act of exhibiting one's work is a delicate balance between those two points. It takes a certain confidence in one's work to exhibit, similarly to publish even on as basic a level as a blog post. You have to believe that what you do will interest others. You have to trust the quality of what you produce even if it is still a work in progress, no less so than each of us.

I have had the experience of displaying my artwork in a gallery space, each painting nestled within my husband's beautiful hand-crafted frames. Carefully lit, the paintings glow in the spotlights. The underlying stories are drafted with care and posted alongside the work. I look around and marvel that I created this body of work.

Yet before that same show I often have that moment where I decide I don't like any of my paintings and want to start over. Nothing feels adequate and I question my readiness to share my work with the public.

More often I am pleased with some paintings, but uneasy about others. I need to live with a painting for several months before I declare it finished. There is a process of coming to terms with my work that must precede that declaration. When I rush it, I am unsettled, not at peace with my artwork.

Then I stand up and give a talk. I breathe life into my creations with words. I share my process and passion with an audience and as I feel the connection with them I again find comfort in my work.

Pride, humility, feelings of inadequacy, satisfaction. Artists move up and down the scale like a keyboard, striking both soaring and troubled notes.

In the Artists' Lab we look at these topics through the lens of text, then translating it into the artist's experience. In this instance we talked about the story of Joseph (Genesis 37:9-41) and his maturation process from a naive youth insensitively recounting his dream to his brothers, inciting their jealousy. We followed his story as he is brought down and rises again as an adviser to Pharaoh. Along the way we note his movement from imperious speech and pride to a quiet confidence in his ability to both understand the meaning of dreams and the wisdom to respond to their meaning. As artists we also go through a maturation process, learning to trust our work as we find the courage to present it confidently to a broader audience, moving past doubts to believe that we just might have something worth sharing.

*The Jewish Artists’ Laboratory is an arts initiative through the Sabes Jewish Community Center featuring 17 artists exploring the theme of Text/Context/Subtext through study and art making. The project is funded through The Covenant Foundation and similar projects are being done in both Milwaukee and Madison. Artists explore how the theme of Text/Context/Subtext is relevant to Jews and non-Jews, to religious and non-religious, to the community and to the individual, to the artist and the non-artist.

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