June 02, 2006

Who's to judge

When Tamar and I were talking about art (the arts, creativity) the thought kept coming up: “How do you know if your work is worthwhile?” So many people devote their lives to making art, to writing, to playing music, and maybe they receive positive feedback, become successful, maybe not. Maybe they are “recognized” by one generation and not by another. Time is the great equalizer. But still people keep creating; and to have that devotion, it is necessary to believe in oneself. And not only to have that confidence, but also to project that out into the world, let other people know that “your work is the best.” To have people take you (your work) as seriously as you do yourself!

I was talking to my friend R. yesterday and she was saying how she doesn’t enjoy exhibiting her work. She is a much less shy person than I am on a personal level, but the exposure of her creativity, even though she does receive positive feedback, makes her uncomfortable, even shy, embarrassed. Whereas I feel on top of the mountain when I exhibit my work. Somehow, knowing the work is done, finished, on its own, I feel separate from it yet proud of it. Like my children are grown, have lives of their own and I like that. It is also good to be able to see the paintings in a clean space, one that is intended to show the work at its best. And I like people to see what I have done; I paint so that other people can see it. It is communication.

In my first years of painting, I wasn’t as eager for people to see the work. The need has increased with my confidence in the work itself. I did always feel that I would (eventually) make good art, maybe even the best. It was always that feeling that kept me going, even when I was not happy with the work itself. And many times I thought what I was doing was the best, only to look at it a few years, or maybe even a few months later and see that it was definitely lacking.

About fifteen years ago I was in an exhibition with Richard Mueller and Wayne Boucher. We called it Three. As usual, I thought my work was good and was pleased to be showing with a couple of other artists I respected. But when I saw my work on the walls at St. Mary’s University Art Gallery (here in Halifax), I thought it looked dreadful—uptight, rigid, systematic, i.e., Bad. Next to Wayne’s bold fearless black and white abstractions, mine paled. And that was good to see. I wouldn’t have seen this quality so easily if I had kept working without reference to Wayne’s paintings, just kept the paintings in my studio. I am grateful to have seen this. It fostered an entirely new direction in my work. We showed together again at York University and by then, my paintings had changed enough that I felt good, they could hang there with pride.

So now I am eager to see how my new paintings will look when I exhibit them June 12. To see what they really look like. Right now they are stacked in my studio waiting to breath in a public space. In a little over a week.

Posted by leya at June 2, 2006 06:47 PM

I love that Wayne Boucher says in his artist's statement "perhaps the need to find home. That's why I paint".

I see a Wayne Boucher influence in your paintings Leya or is it the other way around?
I can't even conceive of painting alone, without learning from what other painters are doing in their work. It is so important!

Posted by: Jackie at June 5, 2006 08:28 AM