Today, strangely, I seem to be full of energy and though I am not quite sure why, I am pleased to welcome such a forward momentum. Spent the morning in the studio....reordering and straightening, painting white acrylic on sheets of handmade paper in preparation for a new month (and new format) of daily drawings and drawing meditative lines in white ink on a couple drawings in progress, among other tasks. Always, the undercurrent is a steady observation...of myself engaged in the activity, the thoughts that run through, the connections made and the fluctuation in temperament depending on the flow. It is kind of interesting to be simultaneously the observer and the observed.
My field notes today focus on a kind of inner resolution to an ongoing open-ended question that, as artists, we all probably wrestle with. That question is...who is your audience? I've always kind of recoiled from that question, but as one who is trying to engage in the marketplace and sell my work to lovers of art, I'm supposed to ask that question. My husband is a faculty member of printmaking in a university art department comprised of undergraduate and graduate students and this question is asked of the students all the time, as they learn to find their own voice as artists. Sometimes, I think it holds them back.
My answer to this question, "who is your audience?" is me. I've thought this all along, but I think I felt that it was the wrong answer to that test question and so maybe I never allowed myself to say it. But I think that if you are a fine artist, making one-of-a-kind works of art that explore the landscape of ideas, the meaning of making or living in the world already saturated with images....I think the answer has to be you are the first audience. I say this because if it is otherwise, you may not reach a level of authenticity that is yours alone....you may not be making the work that only you can make. Of course, in the end I am more than gratified when others respond to my work or even fall in love with it enough to want to live with a piece. But I must be the one to first love the work. The work and the making of it must satisfy the yearning, the longing to express, if only for a moment. And this lifelong journey, which I suppose sounds as if it borders on narcissism, is really a generous gift to the world.
And now, I must extend a heartfelt thank you to a much admired artist and fellow blogger, Kaija, whose recent post I read this morning on her blog, Paperiaarre. I'm quite sure that her words, describing the fact that she likes (and sometimes falls in love) with her own work or she wouldn't be making it, allowed me to fully inhabit my view that we must like and even love our own work and not be ashamed to admit it. We are the first audience. I know that for me, I must make the work that I make and I always go off course when trying to meet some unknown audience approval. Whether or not they respond to my work, people respond to authenticity and we all will appreciate different works. And the other thing is.....it's a big, wide world with enough room for everyone, so while we can share techniques and learn from each other, we are freely encouraged to be ourselves in the process of creation!
And now a bit of sharing some work from long ago! This is a piece I made about 10 years ago, shortly after moving to South Dakota from Florida. I was in the process of reading a lot about the westward expansion and the displacement of the Native Americans, as I found myself on the land that was at the heart of that period of our nation's history. It was also a time when I discovered that my ancestors on both sides had lived in this part of the country for generations (since the mid 1700s on my father's side), that my bloodline ran deep on this land and those two stories may have been more intertwined than I realized. I found that here in South Dakota I was sitting in the middle of the circle of my ancestors. I like this piece....I made it for me and I am still in love with this piece 10 years later.
Thanks for reading my observations....more Notes From the Field next week!