I am fairly certain I never said to myself “I want to be an artist when I grow up.” I do remember wanting to be an anthropologist. Instead of reading Judy Blume and Nancy Drew mysteries, I had my nose in National Geographic magazines and encyclopedias. Anthropology is pretty ambitious I know, after all you’re not specializing in one area of sociology, but all areas, throughout all cultures and all times. Despite this, as a kid and throughout my teens that’s the direction I was heading. The artist thing just kind of happened. I’ve only recently embraced the professional designation of “Artist” despite making a living from my work for over 30 years now. Choosing this path in life has been challenging at best.
Putting the “starving artist” cliche aside, I wanted to share a piece of myself with the world. This takes some fairly large kahunas for the simple fact that it makes me vulnerable. I have never been particularly good at the vulnerability thing, and I don’t know too many people who are. I imagine that is where my reluctance to recognize the “artist” designation came from, I had to own that vulnerability first.
You see, this is far from just a job for me. It really is more of a state of being. It’s how I perceive, interpret and interact with the world. When I think of my life’s work I don’t envision a grand gallery wall or an opening gala in at some upscale museum. I think of my studio. It’s the paint spatter on the wall behind the dirty sink. Everywhere I look among the half-finished sketches, scraps of fabric and dirty paint water is where my life’s work truly is. It is the necessary “commercial” work needed to raise a family. It is the hours upon hours toiling away in “the zone”. It’s the pile of unfinished pieces and primed canvases in the corner. It is the collected bits of mundane things waiting to be transformed into something extraordinary. This space embodies so much more than work for me. It is where I have learned that it’s really ok to make mistakes and to experiment with new things. It has taught me to be fearless and unapologetic. I have learned to grow thicker skin because after all not everyone is going to like everything you do, and some will even hate it. It is where I have gotten comfortable in my own skin by allowing what I have inside me to manifest itself and come to life. This is the place where I have become that anthropologist who just happens to be an expert on Rose. It is here and through my work that I have dissected every square inch of my own life, made friends with my demons and learned to find the beauty in the ugliest corners of my experience. It is where I took those ugly bits and pieces that most people would prefer to keep locked away, brought them into the light and have gently woven them together, transforming them into something soulful and exquisite.
Sitting here now I see the world through such different eyes than I did those oh so many moons ago when life was young and treacherous. I feel I have finally come into my own. In a roundabout kind of way, I suppose I got what I wanted to be when I grow up after all.