Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Ugly Green Monster

Today's journaling was delayed due to the inaccessibility of this morning. At the same time the bulletin board was down. Could it have been a denial of service and not a coincidence? Those pesky hackers! (love this cartoon). So it's getting on time for lunch, the coffee has come and languished, cold in the mug, and the music is remarkably uninspiring. This does not mean, however, that there has not been much activity this morning. Au contraire.

Yesterday's firing went beautifully, and I needed that. When I returned the work I had photographed to a gallery yesterday, I had a disturbing experience: As I was leaving I glanced over at a display of my work in a 16-cube shelving unit and I saw a beautiful piece in the center cube which looked a lot like mine, but it wasn't. It was in the same style as all of my work surrounding it--what I call Morceaux de Verre (morsels of glass) and with the same intensity and blend of colors that I favor. It was as technically good as my pieces (smooth glassy surface free of air bubbles, no devitrification) and it was more beautiful--richer, more intense color. It was also considerably more expensive than my pieces.

I left the gallery feeling like my work was worthless and why do I even continue making it. (And how can I even consider writing a book about it!). When someone who dabbles in fusing and has no understanding of what happens to glass in a kiln and why (or didn't the last time I talked to her) can make something more beautiful than I can after 18 years of learning, experimenting and practice... well, I might as well just hang it up! And I fretted about the insensitivity of the gallery owners--to carry the work in the first place and to put it in a place surrounded by mine in the second.

I knew I was being unreasonable and ungenerous, and I couldn't get over it and let it go. I am ashamed to say I am still struggling a bit because what bothers me is not that she might be imitating me, it's that if she is, *her work is better than mine*.

For some of us it is always and ever will be a competition. "It" (the work) is good because someone else says it is. Yes, "it" may resonate within us, but unless someone else says they value "it", "it" is ultimately worthless. We may come across as extremely self-confident and self-possessed, but it is just a facade. In reality we have low self-esteem and constantly worry that someone else is better/smarter/thinner/prettier/more talented/more... than we are.

Fortunately there is no shortage of people in the world to remind us about what is important and why we do what we do. My wonderful spouse sent me this link about writing and it is so perfect for "being an artist" or making a living as any fill-in-the-blank that I had to share it: Even More Long-Winded (But Practical) Writing Advice I read it as I was writing this entry and had the “Moonstruck” epiphany (where Cher walks up to Nicolas Cage and slaps his face, looks to see if it had an effect, slaps him again and says “Snap out of it!”). The tight, unhappy knot in my belly went away and I started planning the next thing I want to try (pastel landscapes on glass…. Yumm!) and ordering the supplies I will need.

Life is just too damn short and all the clich├ęs apply: there is also someone better, the only one you have to satisfy with your life is you, it really. doesn’t. matter. what other people think.


ren said...

and then there is that other situation, that cold bucket of water over the head, when you show someone something that you are so proud of and they say. "oh, hey, that's good...who did that?" and then you shout "ME! ME! i am an artist! i am pretty good!" and they say..."hunh, i didn't know you could do that." *sigh*

and for what it's worth, i don't know anything about glassmaking or glass art but i think what you do is pretty damn amazing! (thank you for making yourself known to me on my blog, now i have a whole new type of art to learn about!)

Bill Paley said...

...and there's always that doctor who knows a bit more than I do about something, or the woodcarver who has natural talent rather than me struggling to just get the basics, or, or, or.

Well, you know.