So, I painted this today. I realize it may have little to do with coming out, or with anyone’s sexual orientation, but it has everything to do with healing. It also prompted me to think about the direction my life is taking, the significance of women in art, and Bette Porter. (OK, a lot about Bette Porter.)
I have never considered myself to be a painter, or to have any talent whatsoever in the visual arts, because I learned at a very young age that I cannot draw for carrots, and that whether you are considered to have any potential in the art world depends highly on whether or not you can produce something with a pencil that looks remarkably like a person’s face. Nevertheless, I have always enjoyed art for aesthetic purposes, and the two gen-eds on art history that I took in college were both fascinating and eye-opening.
The first time I deliberately picked up a paintbrush outside of elementary school art class was in college, and it consisted of me flinging paint around on an 8.5” x 11” piece of cardstock as a way of releasing a lot of anger. I found the experience to be quite cathartic, so I occasionally continued producing these pieces as a means of therapy. Eventually my dad got a hold of a few of them, stamped them “brilliant” and commissioned me to create a series of abstract pieces for his workspace. Whether he actually likes what I came up with is still up for debate, but he still urges me to explore my apparent “talent” and to sell what I do. I have mixed feelings about this. As of yet, I have not sold any of my pieces. They’re highly personal, and intimate, like most of what’s on this blog – and I’m not yet convinced I want to put a piece of my soul up for auction. But maybe in the future.
Today’s piece is significant because it is the first time in nearly 2 years that I painted something for myself and heard my inner voice while doing so. All my art forms suffered while I was living in Chicago, while I was in a relationship with Mark. I didn’t write anything, paint anything, sing anything. Not really. But today, when I gazed at the empty canvas sitting on the grass beneath a benevolent sun, I felt something like inspiration. Something like a oneness with myself, a mending of what was broken. That something made me smile.
I also realized, by looking snarkily at myself through the lens of an outsider, that I was nothing but a wounded, feminist, lesbian artist trying to achieve meaning through nature and art. What a cliché! But if you really want your inner voice to be heard, you have to silence those harsh critics that live in your mind. There are plenty of doubts we all have about our blogs, our music, our writing, our capacity for curating our own voices and the importance of what we have to say. But if there’s one lesson for today, that’s just it – allow your art time to exist and grow before you start modifying and censoring and hacking away at its beauty. Believe in your art. If you don’t, no one will.
For me, it’s just that someday I hope I can create pieces with more meaning than the zen experience of being plugged in to the earth’s energy. Something that represents a commentary on culture. Something that screams the authorship of a woman and demands attention to the significance of that authorship. In the “contemporary” unit of my freshman overview of art class, we studied pieces that made statements about women and the way society treats them. I remember a piece featuring a bunch of breasts slapped down over all the surfaces of a kitchen, on the oven, the countertop, the refrigerator, the floors, the ceilings. They were sliding down with the texture of fried eggs. I’m not exactly sure what it meant, but it must have been something to do with society’s habit of chopping women into pieces and viewing them as sex parts in a kitchen. I remember it being disturbing and provocative, much the way Bette Porter likes her art collections.
I want to make a piece like that. There is a time and place for aesthetic art, and for home décor. I am more interested in art as a vehicle of communication, as a nonverbal means of delivering a strong message. Thankfully, creating art does not require representational depiction, but it does require a bold idea. Until I find that bold idea and figure out how to represent it, I’ll dream of Bette Porter viewing my work in scandalized delight at some gallery in L.A. and asking if I’d like to be featured in her latest collection. Seriously, guys. That thought alone should be enough to ignite the inner voice.
But it’s not like I have contributed nothing here. After all, this piece does mean something important: it represents the healing I’m going through and the experience of wholeness within myself as a woman, eschewing the necessity of a romantic partner. It’s sensitive and wet and youthful, and the way the gold shines when the sun hits it makes me want to get naked and take a shower in that stuff. Wait, now there’s an idea!