Welcome to Kathleen’s Art Blog!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

My Struggles as an Artist

Even though it's been 18 months since my last published thoughts, I have been actually thinking a lot. Since the last post, I've successfully curated a museum show, had a one-person show at Snyderman Works Gallery in Philadelphia, done a number of retail juried shows, and taught a number of workshops. So, why do I feel at age 59 like I'm still struggling as an artist?

Yes, art is a struggle for me. I feel compelled to make art all the time, I've been doing it professionally for over 30 years, and I've been doing it my whole life. Yet, I still am struggling with whether I have anything to say, what should I be saying, and how should I say it.

When I got my MFA, the most important single thing I came away with was said to me by a professor during a critique session. "Make your work personal". It wasn't all the technical knowledge and skill I took from my degree, but that single phrase, that was the most crucial thing for me. But how was I to do that? I've taken that phrase very seriously over the years and made different series of works that reflected the stages in my life, my inner struggles and feelings about the outer circumstances of life.

I did a series of sculptures based on the interiors of the houses of my midwest relatives when I was growing up, then a series of "Housewife Queens", then sculptures based on my daughters' childhood drawings, then a series on the Arabian Bedouin Women I bought bits and pieces of jewelry from while living overseas, then a series on the Village Women I encountered in Turkey when we lived there, then a series on women's faces and Biblical verses that were autobiographical in emotion (including a scream based on my own ruptured aneurysm 9 years ago). More recently I've done a series of pods, grass, buds, and moss sculptures/purses based on the woods I walk in here in New Hampshire.

While older work involved representational imagery of women, more recent work may not seem related because it is "inspired by nature" - a phrase I always detested as being trite and overdone. But, in fact, my more recent work of pods and buds is voluptuous at times, nearly always feminine in meaning having to do with seeds and perhaps the end of my own reproductive years and beginning of grandmotherhood.

But, now I'm at a standstill. Where do I go from here? Do I make sculptures of death even though I am most likely many years away from the end of my own life? How do I translate that into sculptures that are actually purses?

I'm actually feeling right now like all those years of making "stuff" in the end is just that - "stuff". I'm feeling like king Solomon right now when he said in Ecclesiastes, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity and chasing after the wind". I want to still make stuff, but is it just a job to make money? Who cares in the end? I want to still make my work personal, but am struggling with how to do that right now. I am feeling the meaninglessness of worldly striving.

Art is hard work!!! If it weren't, everyone would be an artist.