On Open Studios and open fields... impostor phenomenon and a beautiful poem by Robert Duncan!
A beautiful sunny Saturday for visiting artists' Open Studios - with my son and two borrowed, joyous, energetic dogs! and had a funny, mixed day... with wonderful, inspiring art...
I've been going to the Open Studios for quite a few years, all around Cornwall, and have always loved the diversity of the artists and their work, seeing their processes, working spaces, chatting sometimes - it's all a privilege and fascinating... and dreaming of maybe taking part one year. Whilst walking around, I was struck again at how such a deep and painful lack of confidence has led me to disregard so much that I've done over the years - including painting, drawing, ceramics, writing, qualifications, teaching, successes...(socialising and speaking were incredibly hard too)... and to feel such a sense of awe for others.
Over the last two years I've started to show some of my feltings, which was terrifying at first– but alongside other leaps in new, personal understanding, little by little it became easier and the self-admonishment of ‘daring to speak’/having a voice at all has become less and less. At (college) work last week, I thought about how I often dismiss what I do when I say to others, ‘Oh it’s nothing really, just some feltings, some ideas...’, when people ask and especially around ‘real’ artists (as I’ve always thought them, and they are, of course!).
Why do I (still) do this? I am belittling something I care deeply about – my work that is starting to develop and do so well, giving pleasure to others, too, is not 'nothing, really'. My joy is also in the process and in expressing myself with poetry that I’ve always loved and how this has been a continued light for me through some dark times. It needs nurturing, encouragement, belief, respect, kindness and continued curiosity towards new avenues and openings to let it flow and unfold – always a celebration! - and funnily it happens in a space where 'I', the 'conditioned' Rowena am not ... liberating! :-). I feel small and sad when I speak negatively about it, it's like a betrayal, and a shifting of the critical voices from myself to my work, a side-swipe back to me, as ultimately the work just 'is' and happy in itself! I decided last week that I would not speak negatively about it anymore, but I found today, just days later, that the old instant response jumped in again when an artist was complimentary towards my work.
I have so many ideas to explore and these curl away, grey, unhappy, when I put them down. I felt so sad this afternoon, listening to myself when speaking dismissively...but am aware and so no more!
And the beautiful dogs...after a few studios and pulling back and fluster - poor Plum and Milo! - they had lots of hugs, tickles and pinecones :-) and then they ran free and happy across the open fields, no constraint, just endless bounding and discovering! Wonderful teachers!
I was wondering whether this resonates with you at all and also, perhaps, how you've learned to overcome it, or work alongside it?...maybe using these feelings and transforming them into a new strength in your work, art, career... life! Please do leave any comments :-)
I also thought about a recent Radio 4 series and this (really entertaining) episode in particular - Oliver Burkeman on feeling a fraud and how this can constrict you - amongst other things!
... I also thought about 'The Opening of the Field' - a collection of poetry by Robert Duncan ...and the first poem:
Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow
as if it were a scene made-up by the mind,
that is not mine, but is a made place,
that is mine, it is so near to the heart,
an eternal pasture folded in all thought
so that there is a hall therein
that is a made place, created by light
wherefrom the shadows that are forms fall.
Wherefrom fall all architectures I am
I say are likenesses of the First Beloved
whose flowers are flames lit to the Lady.
She it is Queen Under The Hill
whose hosts are a disturbance of words within words
that is a field folded.
It is only a dream of the grass blowing
east against the source of the sun
in an hour before the sun’s going down
whose secret we see in a children’s game
of ring a round of roses told.
Often I am permitted to return to a meadow
as if it were a given property of the mind
that certain bounds hold against chaos,
that is a place of first permission,
everlasting omen of what is.
Robert Duncan, “Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow” from The Opening of the Field. Copyright © 1960 by Robert Duncan.
Source: Selected Poems (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1993)