(Above: “Cubed” by Sarah Snyder, 2004, New York City)
I feel the weight of art in two ways as I launch this website. There is the pressure to promote and the pressure to perform. Each one feels like a giant block crushing my head, hindering what I truly want to do: just make art.
The Pressure to Promote
I’ve been wanting to get the launch of this website “squared” away since I bought the domain name three months ago. It’s been a weight upon my mind this whole time. I was so eager to get it going. Then there was a snafu with the domain registration company. That caused a two week delay before I even had access to the domain to build a website. Then my mind was blank.
What should this new site look like? How do I want to present myself? Should it be colorful like my previous art website? Or do I want something more minimalistic? I chose the latter. Should I have a splash page like my other site has? Well, I read several articles on that. It seems that splash pages are considered archaic in the world of web design these days. Plus, I discovered that splash pages can kill your website’s SEO. We can’t have that now can we?
That brings me to a distinction under this topic. I feel the pressure to promote, not the pressure to publish. I love publishing things: photos, drawings, blog posts, etc. But there is a pressure to promote yourself and your products in the correct way. Everything needs to be optimized just so. Hence the “O” in SEO. You need a marketing team to help you get your packaging looking just right to appeal and attract. You need to be slick and smart. You need to out-optimize all the other slobs who are out there promoting themselves. It all feels exhausting.
The Pressure to Perform
Now let me take it up a notch.
I keenly feel the pressure to perform as an artist. I can’t help but compare myself to others and feel inferior most of the time. My IMPOSTER SYNDROME goes into overdrive. The critic’s voice inside my head starts chanting, “Who do you think you are claiming to be an artist? You can’t take photos like that guy over there. You’ll never paint like that woman does. In my opinion, bird droppings on a windshield are more artistic than your crap, Snyder.” On and on.
I do have friends that are artists, some of them full time. They produce amazing work. I will never measure up to them. That cube is way too big for me to move.
Relieved of the Weight
In her wonderful book, “Making Art a Practice: How to be the Artist You Are,” Cat Bennett says:
Yes, other artists might be more accomplished, be working on a bigger scale, be more successful, but this is where we are. It’s okay. They’re on their journeys; we’re on our own. The Buddha said everything is perfect for our own learning. If we look with care, we’ll discover we have things to offer, too – perhaps a particular sensitivity, a rawness of expression, a curious idea, humor even. Let’s notice our qualities, even if they’re not fully polished. Appreciation helps us grow. It pays to look for what we do well, and to applaud our unique character and our particular skills. We need courage as artists to be ourselves and to step into the unknown.
(Click here to visit Cat Bennett’s website.)
I am relieved of the weight of art to the extent that I remember that every artist is on their own journey. Comparing myself to others is counterproductive. It does nothing to help me on my journey.
With that, I realize that I’m the one who brings this weight down on my own head. I also realize that I don’t have to lift this weight off. I can simply slide out from beneath it by having a better perspective. Do I want to be more skillful? Sure! Do I want to promote myself effectively? Sure! But what I mostly want is to have nothing impede my flow of creative production. The weight ceases to be when I focus on simply and humbly offering what I create.
Speaking of humbling… I got up from under Isamu Noguchi’s “Red Cube” with a crowd watching and dirt on my forehead. Someone should wash the cube.
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