Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Learning and Unlearning...
Right now I am in the middle of sorting out my student loan situation. It's an unpleasant task and one that I have put off for far too long. Part of the process is finding documents that were tucked away in cardboard boxes and plastic bins and have survived (or not survived, as I am discovering) nine moves and over ten years.
Looking back at that work, I see how unprepared I was for art school. I was quick to pick up the lingo and immersed myself in the rhetoric and theory, and I could put a good spin on what I made, but I didn't really understand it.
Now that I look back at it, if I had the option, I would burn it all. (And I might just do that to the fragments that I still own.)
What I see when I look back on those old paintings of hollow-eyed self-portraits is a black-hole of sadness and a struggle for identity. I was broken and while I had inclinations of it, I didn't fully grasp it. I was unhappy, but I didn't understand it. I layered it with pseudo-spirituality and phony metaphysical mystery to protect it. If I could defend it, sell it, and make my pain a commodity, then it was Art.
I think part of the problem was that I was under this romanticized notion of the "tragic artist". I fell in love with a myth that the most successful and powerful artists and writers were ones that were indeed fractured and hurt beyond repair. Their bloody, gapping wounds displayed in art museums and on bookshelves were somehow sublime. My ambition only damaged me further.
Even later in my work, I see this persistent confusion and desperate searching. I could conceptualize it and explain it and cite artistic influences and theoretical basis, but all I was doing was masking the quest to fully understand myself and my place in the world. My body, my sexuality, why I did the things I did and felt the things I felt were all so amorphous to me. These things were a cloud without shape. I felt empty, a vessel for this soupy mess and I was trying to give it structure and fill it up with words. I took comfort in explaining it all away.
Looking back on these artifacts, I see pieces to a puzzle. Striped of their theory and weighted down words, I see the map they make. While they outline a country that I do not care to trend again, I see them for what they are and where I've been.