What I have learned from showing my images in public.

There is something intrinsically vulnerable about sharing something deeply personal with the public. I think artists of all kinds know this. You open yourself up for criticism as well as praise. So why bother? Why not just keep all the work you created in a safe, protected space? Is it the hope to sell the work, to get rich and/or famous, that drives artists to put their work out there? Maybe for some.  For me, and I suspect for many others, it is more about a desire to connect with others, to show and share ourselves so that others can know who we are and hopefully gain something from what we have wrangled with alone for hours, weeks and sometimes years.  What people will see in our work we have little or no control over. As with many other things in life, we humans tend to see the world not as it is, but as we are.  Projections are hard to avoid.

 I remember a show I had in Sweden in my twenties. One of the larger fiber art images I had made seemed to evoke strong responses from several people who came to the reception.  One man began to tell me how moving it was for him, an old sailor, to see this piece of  mine of the ocean with those three boat masts far off in the distance. I just nodded and said I was happy it gave him something. A short while later, a deeply religious woman approached me and pointed to the exact same piece and said" I just love the piece you made of the three crosses, indicating the crucifixion of Jesus at Golgata." Again I just nodded and said I was happy she liked what she saw.  Personally, I had had no intention of making any crosses or boat masts. I had just added some lines in the distance to show perspective. But who was I to tell them they were wrong? We all look through some sort of lens.

So as I show my work, like this week at Gallerie Ellipsis in Newport, I remind myself that all I can do is do my best. I cannot expect everyone to resonate with what I do. And yes, there are cases where people have expressed a strong dislike, bordering on hate, for my images.  But as long as I offer what I have from the heart, no matter how imperfect, I can hope it touches someone in a way that will add value to their day. And if they like it enough, and want to look at it repeatedly, they may even want to take that piece home.  I have been fortunate enough to sell my work to a variety of people through the years.  It always feel very affirming and supportive and also a bit like sending "your kids" away to other people's homes. I sometimes jokingly ask( if I know the person) if I have visitation rights. It is a lesson in letting go. Once again, I have no control over what happens  to my labor of love after the sale. People may sell it to someone else, give it away or throw it in the trash eventually. It is all out of my hands. It is a good reminder that in the end of the day we have a lot less control than we like to imagine over most things that matter. But we can do our part, we can dance with life and offer our viewpoints to each other, so that we together can see the whole, big picture more clearly.