2020 Edit: I wrote this blog post in early fall of 2019 and I was so scared of posting it then, when the feelings below were so incredibly intense. They've since dulled a little bit and though it's scary to publish, I now think it's actually quite worth putting out there for anyone to read as they will. I've come to terms with what was happening at the time and now I'm happy to say that I'm on the road to a place where I do get paid properly for the work I do. It's still far ahead of me but I know I'm at least on the road.
Defining and representing your identity to the outside world is a routine practice, especially for those who work within any creative or alternative industry. Perhaps this was always true but it's become much more amplified as we're now deep into a *new* age of digital media and identity politics. It's like when the Vietnam War was first televised on national broadcasts, bringing overseas violence into people's living rooms. That was a loud, significant change in the way we received news, perceived war, and viewed ourselves in a broader global context. The same has happened with everything we do in our everyday lives albeit in an even more pervasive manner. We broadcast our lives for all for the world to see, we define and refine our crafted selves to the outside world on the regular. The boundaries of media have blurred all around and the result is compounded pressure on content creators of all forms. We are driven by the need to say something that is significant and equally so, driven by the need to be popular/liked/seen. The desire for a viewing audience to your life is now a daily routine.
This has made the practice of making art all the more intense because we artists were already knee-deep in the narcissistic need for an audience. I've always felt a bit weird about this and after stumbling upon an old article on this impressive performance work, I feel compelled to do a good ole word vomit.
I constantly find myself in-between. Honestly, this is truly what my artwork has been about, the tension and uneasiness of being in-between... at least when it's appropriate. My mural work and the stuff I sell at markets, pop-ups, and live events... that's the fun stuff. The stuff that people "ooh" and "ahh" about because it is first and foremost about attraction and beauty. I've got no problem with this, as it's also an important part of what I do and enjoy creating. I enjoy creating things that are pretty and give someone something they can find peace in.
The in-between I'm talking about is really more about my persona and how I'm perceived, and thus how my work is perceived, within the landscape of the Atlanta art scene. It's probably taboo for me to put this in writing, but I'm going to do it anyways... I think for the amount of work I've been doing and the amount of time my name has been out there, I'm not close to where I should be. It's partly my own fault because I bend backwards far more often than I should. I'm getting a bit tired of having to donate my work and/or time for exposure. I'm also tired of putting on a face like I'm happy and proud of what I've done, because although yes I am proud of it RELATIVE to what I did before - I'm also really disappointed in how some things continue to play out in a city that flaunts wealth, but doesn't care as much about substance or sustained support of contemporary visual culture.
Validation is something we all need and we get it in different ways from different sources. Social media helps us feel validated that our life is worth having, that our friends enjoy the things we enjoy, that the things we've worked towards are desirable among the social circles we want to be a part of. My whole life I've felt like I needed validation from multiple entities in multiple ways. Was this something learned or is it just a natural part of who I am? Both. Is this a struggle that all women in society feel? Yes. Is this a struggle that all women of color feel? Even more so. Yesterday I said to someone in a conversation that I thought all art was about the hurt inside and a desire to express that hurt in a beautiful way. That's a simplistic way of looking at a creative practice, but it does pull up a deep root within me.
I am desperately seeking validation from so many places. I want people to tell me I'm good, but I don't want them to know how much I want to hear them say it. I want people to be willing to pay an actual amount of money for my work that could justify doing this as my career. I want to be chosen for exhibitions that other people are rejected for. I want to be special.