I believed that sharing my personal stories and life experiences were not important enough if I wanted my work to ever be significant. I became stuck in an artistic rut.
Do I dare make the work that is pulling at my heartstrings? Do I listen to what's tearing at my soul? Will it matter to anyone? Can my personal stories, experiences, and emotions relate to a wider audience? Does my small voice have the power to make a difference? Can I even consider myself an artist? These questions (and many others) ran through my head constantly until a couple weeks ago when I had a one-on-one with the brilliant, Ruby Wallis.
Ruby is one of the professors at BCA. She has a PhD in Fine Art Media from The National College of Art and Design in Dublin and is a successful and award-winning creator. Despite her prestige in the art world, she discussed my work with me as a dear friend would--encouraging and without judgement.
I shared my sentiments in struggling to make my work relevant. I want to express what matters to me, but I wasn't sure if that was enough. I don't want to make frivolous work. I want my work to contribute to a bigger conversation. Ruby shared with me the phrase: "The Personal is Political." It's an expression from the second-wave feminist movement of the 1960s and 70s. She said that personal stories can make a difference and are meaningful.
How I'd never heard it before beats me. The Personal is Political. Finally, it all made sense...something clicked!
I realized that Tracey Emin, who I idolize, doesn't just have better personal stories to share. Her work is important because it is raw, brave, and personal. Her piece, Everyone I Have Ever Slept With, tells a personal story, but it also pushes the careful viewer to confront more complex issues. The work is a tent embroidered with the names of all the people she's ever slept with (both sexually and not). Consciously or not, Emin is able to discretely poke fun at the idea of slut-shaming or gossip in general. I believe my work can be equally powerful and thought-provoking (at its own level, obviously I'm not an internationally renowned artist...yet).
So, thanks to Ruby, I am less afraid to expose the inspiration behind my work. I am sensitive, spiritual, soulful, romantic, thoughtful, an activist, seeker of relationships and community, a self-criticizer, a self-lover, a "family-man," and I care deeply about the world. My work is diaristic in nature, but it's relatable because it's human. It's honest and forthright.
I am less afraid to talk about how my soft-sculpture figures are symbolic of the sense of vulnerability I've felt in making this lifestyle transition to Ireland. I am happy to share that the images I've created of female figures are depictions of the beauty and depth of emotion I feel as I navigate my love life.
Every Voice Matters
I am excited about the relief I feel from the pressure of making art that "matters." In truth, all art matters because every voice matters, and every individual has something interesting to share with the world.