21 Dec

So…

I’m in a constant state of trying to figure out what I want to do with my life. I’ve already made the choice to be a mother, so that pretty much dictates the majority of my priorities. I also feel compelled to make art. So I am always trying to find the right balance between the two. Lately I’ve been feeling like the art is taking away too much time from the mothering and housewifey stuff I should be doing, and as long as the art isn’t paying any bills or leading anywhere specific, that is probably not the right balance.

In the last few years I’ve set a few goals to focus my work (helps with finding the balance thing). One decision was to enter only local shows if they seemed appropriate, or non-local shows if they were really important ones like Quilt National, with a recognized reputation. In that vein I entered work into Quilts=Art=Quilts and Art Quilt Elements, which seem to be highly regarded in the art quilt world. Amazingly, my quilt “War Sucks,” was accepted into both!

So now I’ve had work hanging in Q=A=Q for over a month but the only feedback I’ve gotten was a flurry of Facebook comments from friends that they are proud of my work being in the show, and emails from the venue promoting quasi-related events at the gallery. Somehow I was expecting more. A catalog (OK, I admit, that’s something I knew going in, and QN and Art Quilt Elements do publish catalogs), or more importantly, some kind of review of the show. I’d love to know if the art world thinks this show is better than last year’s, or not, or reflects some of the current zeitgeist, or shows trends towards larger or smaller work, and which works in particular stood out for whatever reason. Perhaps just knowing that I got in should be enough. That I did not win any of the awards is a critique in itself as well. I asked on the SAQA discussion board if anyone else had perhaps seen a review in a magazine or somewhere, and the general response was that reviews of art quilt shows are not productive and cause more harm than good. I should be happy that my work was accepted. Maybe my disappointment is just a symptom of my tendency to self sabotage.

I have to wonder though, why do I want to get my work shown in these supposedly high cache venues? Are there that many more people coming to view the art than say, at my local library? Is there any more discussion about the artworks than say if they were displayed at the coffee shop down the street? If I’m not actively marketing my work, do I stand any better chance of selling my work than through my website? If I can make it through the jurying process, then why not just try showing in a local gallery where I can at least come see the art in context, and even talk to viewers first hand? Getting back to the balance thing, I wonder what’s the big deal, and why am I doing this? I could probably make a bigger impact by focusing more on my family and creating a healthier environment for them to flourish.

I suspect that I set these shows on a pedestal. I suspect my expectations were too high and my gratitude too low.

8 thoughts on “So…

  1. Kristin, Thank you so much for writing about this. I too have had to make choices as to where to spend my time with my art, and I decided to back away from entering quilt shows, with an eye towards getting in “the big ones”. I do not like the person i am when I entered shows. And I suspect that I would still have that ugly competitive streak in me if I entered now. Your experience tells me that I am indeed not missing much! With the exposure and feedback I get through blogging and the other venues that have opened up to me, I am very happy that my work is getting seen and appreciated. But I still have that nagging “you won’t be taken seriously if you don’t get into show XXX” voice in the depths of my brain. Your words today made me take another look at my decision, and I’m still sure that it was the right one for me, for now…

    So, thanks again for sharing your thoughts! Happy Holidays!

  2. You’re always so articulate in expressing your emotions! You made an interesting comment:

    ” I could probably make a bigger impact by focusing more on my family and creating a healthier environment for them to flourish.”

    I think we make the greatest impact by example. How we navigate being both a mother and a woman with her own talents and passions. I’m very conscious of the fact that I need to work toward figuring out the work/life/personal fulfillment balance so my daughter’s can visualize the possibilities for their own lives.

    That’s what your children will remember from their childhood and by all accounts you’re doing an amazing job and making quite an impact! Look into the future and imagine how your children will process the memory of your War Sucks quilt. Pretty amazing stuff to be sharing with them.

    We all view art through our own lens. The artist will rarely ever have an opportunity to know the effect it has on the viewer. Reviews and art world critique is not very relevant at the end of the day.

    Ultimately you have to decide what it is about making art that makes you happy and what level of validation allows you to find your own peace with it. Very complex stuff indeed!

  3. I think it depends on what the end goal is. Do you want to do commission work, installations, win ribbons and cash awards? Or is it for validation from your peers? Do you want to teach nationally/internationally? I think if you want to teach locally, a show at the local gallery, library, etc. is great free advertising. You could have a booth in a merchant mall to sell items and inform of your classes. If you want to broaden your audience, then you really have to get your name out there. I am on thin ice now, as I create because that is what makes me happy and I know almost nothing about marketing myself. So, ask yourself, what do you what as a goal this year, in 5 years, etc. Nothing is written in stone and you adjust as you grow. You know I think you are an amazing artist and could do anything you set as your goal. I’ll always be here, cheering you on.

  4. Gosh Kristin, you’ve got me here… I’m in the same boat. Wish I could tell you something to put all this into perspective, but really it’s your path. I’d start by asking myself who you want to be 10, 20 years from now and start working towards that. If it’s “well known artist A” than do what they did 20 years ago, and just keep plugging away. Malcolm Gladwell wrote an interesting chapter in one of his books about the Beatles. You can get a synopsis of it on You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eHa9n4jbGw
    In his book, he writes that they spent over 10,000 hours perfecting their craft. My take from this is make art, make art, and make art. Now the fact that you’ve chosen to have children and are still working on that project (as am I), shouldn’t negate your ability to make art IMHO.
    Bottom line, I think you are a wonderful artist, you’ve already put in countless hours into your work and you should not make any big decisions about yourself based upon the failures or successes of this past year. Just make more art! Robin

  5. Your comments are all about doing and working. I find that when my own thinking is along these lines, expectations creep in, and self predominates. You mentioned sabotage; the term erosion comes to my mind.

    What if you shifted your perspective to being. Focus on who you are and are becoming, instead of what you do. I find that when I choose to be impacted by life instead of trying to make an impact on life or others, I flourish. In such times wonder reigns and life is open instead of compartmentalized. Relationships heighten, creativity flows and because I am no longer doing, but abiding, deeper living results.

  6. Thank you all so much for chiming in!

    Carol, I appreciate your wise words. I have a very hard time being and not attaching it to doing. It would definitely do me well to work on changing my focus (but that’s so much easier said than done!).

    Robin, I know we’re in the same boat and that’s why I value our friendship so much. I’ve read about the 10,000 hours, and certainly that figures into where I expect to be going in the future. With the path I’ve chosen, that dedication will be hard to achieve. That said, I don’t know where I want to be. I enjoy my hobby, and perhaps that is the level at which it needs to stay — which goes back to Carol’s “being” (happy making art) and not “doing” (trying to reach certain goals).

    Jeannie and Kathy, thanks for the encouragement! Like I’ve said, I’m not sure where I want to be/go, and that definitely affects my reactions to things. I suppose when I figure out what I want then I’ll be closer to knowing what my goals (if any) should be, and vice verse.

    Candy, ugly competitiveness is not one of my issues, but I totally get how it could be. You are so right though about decisions needing to be the right ones for right now — which also gets back to Jeannie’s, Kathy’s and Robin’s comments.

    Thinking over it a bit more, I think what I was really looking for from the show was something that said “I was there” and “this was the scope.” A catalog or review would have been something I could point to and say “this is a context” for this work. The proof will be Art Quilt Elements, as it has a catalog. If I feel different about that show then I may have an answer to my question of why I’m ambivalent towards Q=A=Q.

  7. My daughter is now 11 and her priorities have shifted. When she was 2-5, she really wanted a SAHM focused on her.

    Now that she is older and thinking about college and careers, it’s really important to her that I have a job outside of the home. Yes, it’s nice that I make good money, but the more important thing for her is that I have a fulfilling life that includes doing something for me.

    Our daughters watch everything that we do and model their lives after (or away from) ours.

    I think War Sucks belongs at Quilt Visions, formerly of Oceanside, CA.
    http://www.visionsartmuseum.org/exhibits/exhibitions.asp?pg=biennial
    They are taking applications for the 2012 show now.

    Aside from being an amazing show, it started in Oceanside (and has recently moved to San Diego). Oceanside is home to a marine base that know War Sucks all too intimately. It’s the right venue for your apron series, too. They also put on shows where they show a handful of artists at a time, but in depth.

    I posted some pix of the outside of the old museum. Pictures weren’t allowed inside.
    http://badmomgoodmom.blogspot.com/2007/05/imperfect-knitting.html

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