Question #2 Do I want to be famous and in what way?
Believe it or not, I used to be very shy. It started in elementary school, took a break in middle and high school, and came back with a vengeance in college. When I was at MICA I lived at home and worked fulltime junior and senior year, so I didn’t exactly have the typical college experience. I had plenty of friends at home, but only talked to two people who were in my classes. I ate lunch outside, even in the middle of winter, because I was too shy to eat in the common building and didn’t have a dorm room to retreat to while on break. If I saw classmates at a bar I never said hi because I assumed they wouldn’t know who I was. Wah, wah, wah, wah…..
Then one day, after life experience gave me some perspective (perspective is the most important quality one can develop, imo), I just decided to change. My thought process went like this, if I can overcome certain things, I can do whatever the hell-o kitty I want. If I run into a classmate at Club Charles, say hi, and he or she doesn’t say anything back, or looks at me weirdly, who cares? So…I started saying “hi” to everybody. And everybody said “hi” back. My world changed. I’m not going to say that all insecurity went the way of the Friendster account, I think I’ve just really gotten to know myself in the past 5 years or so, but I certainly wasn’t the girl freezing her corduroy-clad butt off while eating a sandwich on a bench outside of the sculpture building. I was on my way to becoming who I am now, someone who may take the time to assess a new situation, but also someone who will walk right up to the person I want to meet with my hand outstretched. Someone who isn’t afraid to shout a big ol’, look at me, and someone who is confident enough to laugh at myself and not get my panties in a bunch when I don’t go over like I want (which is precisely like a really funny and talented, sparkling shower of diamonds).
In my late teens/early 20’s, before ready accessibility to the world’s attention gave way to the 15 minutes of things like eyebrows on fleek, the sexy felon, and one very grumpy cat, I could not have even wrapped my brain around the idea of fame. There was the whole painfully shy thing, but I also couldn’t yet break the internet with a hashtag, #likeforlike,#followforfollow, #lookatmelikemenoloveme.
It was in 2011, while on residency at the Vermont Studio Center when I really started to think about fame. Did I want to be famous? Did other artists want to be famous? Answering this question became a research study. I interviewed 35 out of the 50 international artists in my program. Wedged somewhere in between, what are 3 essentials you travel with, what do you daydream about, and where is your favorite place in the world, I asked, do you want to be famous? About half of the artists responded that they were ok with having “something to fall back on,” but it would be nice to make a living based on their work, while the other half answered a resounding, “yes!” No question, I identified with the latter. Something to fall back on? That sounded like giving up to me.
I don’t want to be famous just for fame’s sake, for a clever hashtag or a meme that makes its way to a viral place in your Facebook feed. I want to be recognized so that I have options. I want being an artist to be less of a financial struggle. I want to be able to take my pick of commissions so that I have time to make personal work. With recognition comes opportunity. People want you to be a part of their projects. I want that. I want to be known for my work because for the past several years I have put the majority of my efforts into learning to be a good painter, and a good businessperson. Recognition is a reward.
I suppose that one could say I would be a truer version of myself, or The Artist, if I created just to create, but I don’t want to hide away, piling my accomplishments in stacks in my studio. To say one is ok with that, one would either have to be crazy or lying. I want to say, look what I can do! I want to sparkle like a (really talented and funny) shower of diamonds.
Until next week.
Next Week: Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?