I used to call myself a “midwife to the arts.” I had a series of jobs where I ushered other artists through their expression and into public presentation. I curated a gallery, produced theater and edited writing. For most of my career, I saw this as somewhat of a saintly duty.
At gallery openings, I was often asked, “Are you the artist?” I would always humbly say no, offering that I was the curator instead. While I was proud to be a curator, I did feel a twinge of pain saying “no” to eager patrons, excited by the art, wanting to talk about it. Instead, I would offer a scholar’s eye, an intellectual examination of the art in context. I love interpreting art and conversing about it. Whether performing or visual, I did always suspect I’d enjoy being a critic. I aspired to be, in the loftiest sense of the word, a Patron.
When I was a neuroscience student, my greatest interest was altered states of consciousness, specifically in reaction to great works of art. I was fascinated by the canon of mad artists and wrote stories about them, trying to understand their minds.
In learning about my unhinged heroes, I became troubled by my sanity, unable to believe that my voice was worth anything, because I wasn’t crazy or struck. I was too sane, too normal, too nice to be a great artist. When I was still very young, I decided that art was for the mad.
Production, meanwhile was for the sane.
Then something changed. After years of apologizing for my noise, for ignoring my desires to create, and subsuming them by merely studying beauty, not adding to it, I decided to make something of my own.
Even now, as I write this, I feel the need to apologize for my noise, to back off and look away, pretending that this isn’t really that important.
It’s a weird sense of shame for my voice and a fear that I can’t live up to my own expectations, let alone those of the people who know and care for me.
I’ve quoted this before, but it’s really so important to me, I’ll say it again:
You have to be willing to give something terribly intimate and secret of yourself to the world and not care, because you have to believe that what you have to say is important enough.
This quotation, by author May Sarton, got me over a lot of my guilt for my privilege. It made me realize that my ambitions were in alignment with the way I lived my life. I knew I could apologize all my life, silencing myself before I ever had a chance to speak, or I could just create something and stop apologizing for it.
I always envied artists who were so committed to their expression they could tell the rest of the world to go to hell. Two years ago, I proudly joined them.
Now, I know what it is to have a day job to support my art, to be inspired to spend hours every damn day creating something that no one may ever give me money for.
While I still have pride being a handmaiden to art in my day job, I also know that in my own artistic kingdom, I’m the monarch and that the only one I serve is myself.
This will be my last post of the year, barring any spontaneous inspiration. To those of you who care, Merry Christmas. To those of you who don’t, stay warm and cuddly. Thanks for reading, everyone. See you in 2011.