My Artist Residency in Puebla, Part 2: Am I Ugly? Exploring Art and Beauty
Last week, this is where we left off.
Up until now, when I’ve created art, I’ve only let the beautiful pieces see the light of day and I’ve literally hidden away the ones I deemed ugly. Out of fear of rejection. Do you know what that reminds me of? My experience with anorexia.
It was really difficult to admit that my main motivation behind creating art was simply ornamental. I embraced abstract painting as a way to heal from my eating disorder, but I had fallen back into my old habits of attributing worth to beauty without even noticing.
Had I been lying to everyone, including myself, about the true intentions of my artwork?
I shuddered at the thought.
I had been so proud and vocal about breaking free. People said I was an inspiration. I was pretty comfortable on my soap box.
I guess that I just assumed that since I cared about mental health, my art was about mental health. That wasn't true at all. We have to be more...well, INTENTIONAL about our intentions when we're creating art.
We can't hope that every ounce of what we "meant" somehow sinks into the painting. It doesn't work that way. Even though I wanted my work to be ABOUT mental health, it was still only really about performing beauty. My eating disorder was speaking louder in my work than my actual recovery.
For the first time, I walked into my studio and couldn't rely on "intuitive" painting to work out for me. I had to think more intentionally (there's that word again) about what I wanted to say.
I had been avoiding thinking. Why had I been avoiding thinking??
What did I care about? What did my paintings say??
That wasn't the only difficult revelation of this residency. Francisco came to me the next week with an even more difficult question to answer. It was a question about questions.
What question does your art ask?
And I thought back to this piece. The very first one that I created in Puebla. The one that I held up in front of my face as my fellow resident took a photo. And I knew the answer to Francisco's question...
Am I ugly?
What was that?
Am I ugly?
Sorry, I didn't hear you.
Am I ugly?
Yeah, that's it. That's the question that my art has been asking. And it's been asking it on my behalf. Am I ugly? Am I lovable? Is my worth tied up in how pretty I am? How much do I matter unless I'm beautiful?
That's when I created the painting to the right, the night that I admitted to myself that it was all about me. My art was all about my obsession with how I look. Not only had I objectified myself...I had objectified my art.
Let's sit with this one for now. More on my journey with beauty and art next time.