Artist Self Pep Talks
September 18, 2015
Next will be the promised notes, the updates on the Studio MFA. I promise. But I started this and had to get it out:
I hate mediocrity. I feel it when I evaluate my work in artificial ways: where it is vs. where I want it to be. It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, I hate it.
The thing is, I’m pretty happy. When I take a narrow view and look at my artwork alone, I’m happy. I see meaning. I keep asking and answering questions with my studio practice, and I enjoy the process. When I ignore the rest of the world, I’m satisfied. I see a provenance for the lines and images I use. I see connections and development. The larger conversations in the art world are important to me, and I feel a part of them, even if there aren’t many audiences that hear me (see my work in larger shows, etc.) I feel connected.
It’s when I step back, look up, turn around, that I see markers of art career success that I’m not meeting. I see where I’m not, or rather, where my work is not. What it’s not doing. What it’s not accomplishing. What I’m not doing. What I’m not accomplishing. I feel mediocre. Impatient. Frustrated. Unfocused. I start to imagine my work (myself) through the eyes of a critical Other, and I don’t fare well. I am mediocre. Says the Imagined Other, says The Self I Should Ignore.
I am not mediocre. Stop it.
I’m reminded of a piece of text by Susan O’Malley that I wrote about recently. I needed to hear it then and I need the reminder now.
I saw this piece of hers last night, too, at the Mills College Art Museum: Public Works: Artists’ Interventions 1970s–Now. (More notes on the show coming soon! It fits right in to my Studio MFA studies, the subject I call “Social Practice and Art as Activism: Ways Artists Bring About Change”.)