Vulnerability seems to be the word of the week round here.
Perhaps it’s partly a result of my visit with Patty for a critique of works in progress. She came over last Saturday and helped enormously — isolated specific aspects of each piece that weren’t working or needed attention, gave me ideas on cropping, helped me think about presentation. She encouraged me and never once indulged my suggestion that maybe I should just throw in the towel and hide in a closet till spring.
Patty (find her at patriciakimball.com) and I share an undergraduate alma mater and a love of the human figure and — dare I be so bold — an overall artistic aesthetic. I admire her paintings and love to see them change, and I appreciate her unpretentiousness and curiosity.
I want to construct a cocoon round this project till it’s fully ready to be shared with the world; I feel vulnerable when someone sees work in progress. What if all the good things she thought of me dissolve in a heap? I know they’re imperfect! I want to say. Like many women, I have the impulse to apologize up front, to supply context, and self-deprecatory comments, and explanations. I make attempts to control what people see of me — not the ‘whole catastrophe’, as a friend said recently, only those more ‘presentable’ sides.
The Frenchman in my life has told me I dramatically shield my work when he knocks on my studio door, that I seem to hunch over it when I see him coming, guarding it as if from a desert sandstorm — but in truth I am protecting myself and protecting these pieces from the confusion of like and dislike. Criticisms, ideas, input — especially when work is in progress — some of us take this stuff to heart.
I of course discount immediately anyone who likes me and/or my work. Their credibility is questionable. You like these? Clearly you have no idea what you’re talking about. You like me? Clearly you are a naïve nutcase.
Wanting to be understood is such a basic impulse.
Caring What People Think is such a rich and dark forest to investigate and explore.
It reminds me of something that lover of truth Byron Katie said: “If I had a prayer it would be this: God, spare me from the desire for love, approval, or appreciation. Amen.”
Nature is so sweet this time of year, showing us her awkward transitions, her vulnerability, patiently allowing us to criticize her and rudely wish for the more seductive lushness and warmth of spring. She’s unapologetic, aware of the Whole even among the fallen leaves and grey branches.
Mary Oliver has this to say:
… And after the leaves came
blossoms. For some things
there are no wrong seasons.
Which is what I dream of for me.
For these next seven days: steady-as-she goes, meeting the muses in the early morning hours, plugging away at small bite-sized tasks, taking what each day gives, opening to the inexhaustible levels of revelation that may unfold. And maybe finishing a piece. Back in a week.