Coins in a teacup, with Palestinian purse
Desk with whittled ball and chain, made by my friend G. in the early 70s.
These were the final drawings in the sketchbook I started January 26, 2014; the one at the bottom was done on January 25, 2015. Not intentional -- it just worked out that way.
Over on Facebook, I've been posting three works a day this week, M-F, in response to being nominated for the Art Challenge that's going around. It's funny to notice how uncomfortable I feel doing that, because I do post work here regularly and put the links up at Facebook. Part of it is that I don't like FB's denial of basic copyright laws, but the larger discomfort is just a kind of shyness I feel about blowing my own horn so loudly for a whole week in an environment where (a) everybody is doing that all the time and (b) people over there seem to harbor the same insecurities and self-criticisms and tendency to compare themselves to others that made high school miserable, and have carried over into a lot of adult lives. My blog feels like my own home, where I can just be myself, and people can show up or not, as they want. On the other hand, a lot of people I care about only communicate through FB now. I've appreciated seeing other artists' work in more depth and breadth during this current challenge, so I'm going to assume other people feel the same way.
My own discomfort was palpable enough that I needed to explore it. Being good at things -- unless they're sports -- wasn't a way to be happy and popular when I was young, especially growing up in an under-achieving and pretty anti-intellectual environment. My parents encouraged me to be myself, but by second grade I had learned to be quiet in public about my enthusiasms, interests, and eagerness; "keeping my light under a bushel" seemed like the best way to go. In college I was surprised to meet kids from urban areas who were extremely competitive, pushy, and brash about their own achievements, and who were quite ready to walk all over other people on their climb to the top: this was a personality type I simply hadn't encountered. I also met other kids from smaller school who were a lot like me, and had had some of the same challenges. It took all four years for me to learn to take advantage of the opportunities that were offered, holding to values of kindness and decency while developing my own skills and ability to navigate in a large, competitive world.
When we were moving from Vermont, I found a box of old papers from college, and in it, a letter of recommendation from my advisor praising my strengths, while noting "a lack of confidence." That might seem odd to people who know me now, but not to me: I not only remember how I felt, but I know how other people feel, too. I never wanted to be one of those who was willing to do anything to get into medical school, or get noticed by the visiting genius professor. I just wanted to be myself, to work hard, and not to be disliked for it. My parents told me things would work out, and they did, but not without some cost. I've lost some things that were once important to me, and I've lost certain people too, while gaining authenticity, satisfaction, confidence, and the ability to be comfortable and at peace with myself. The early pains in our lives may be forgiven, but clearly they aren't totally forgotten, even forty years later. Maybe it's not an accident that these drawings contain a shell all by itself, some money in an antique teacup, and a ball and chain made out of wood -- and attached to nothing at all.