The other day I sold a painting to a stranger, a nice young couple who were in love with all my work and spent a long time looking at all of it. It was the opening of a holiday art show at the local museum in Del Norte, Colorado.
I have never sold a painting to a stranger before, not in those circumstances, face-to-face. I found it weird, embarrassing, uncomfortable. I don’t think I showed that. On an abstract level I was able to be THE ARTIST, but I turned the conversation away from my work to them. It was a way out.
By the time I got home from the event I felt very strange. It took a while to understand WHAT I was feeling.
I was feeling ashamed.
It’s a “thing” to blame our parents for our neuroses so I don’t feel so good moving into that territory right now, but here I go.
I have always been an artist, specifically a painter. I have loved painting since I was a LITTLE kid. Among my dad’s souvenirs was a pencil drawing I did when I was 6 or so presumably of myself as a grownup. I’m standing in a big room. I’m wearing a long dress (like all little girls want). Behind me is a window and from the window you can see a mountain range. All around the woman (me) are sleeping dogs. In front of me is an easel with a landscape on it.
And here I am. THAT lady. The three things I love most in my life are dogs, mountains and painting. I always wanted to be an artist, have dogs and live in the mountains.
I don’t know how we come into this world, if we come in with a pre-programmed job description (like the Dalai Lama) or if it’s completely random. I SENSE there’s more to it than being completely random and in my case it certainly has been. I have always known who I am but not how to get there. Who tells us that the self is a destination, in the sense of destiny? I fought hard several times for my own survival; as a kid against diseases, as a woman against abusive men. Until my therapist (long story) explained to me (after listening to me for hours) HOW I’d been raised, I didn’t fully understand that my home was an environment in which I’d been used as a scapegoat to enable my mom’s alcoholism and that I would — naturally — feel more comfortable in environments where I’m not appreciated and even treated badly.
Most of all, my mother hated that I am an artist. She hated it vocally and publicly and all her life. When she died, I found some of my work rolled up and stashed in the guest room closet. I also found a couple of small drawings in a scrapbook of clippings about me and my life. The woman had (obviously) no clear perspective about her feelings for me. I can’t say the same about my feelings for her.
I don’t have any feelings for her. I have somehow integrated both the good and the bad from that woman and live it every day. The good is good. If she’d lived in MORE of the good about herself she might not have been bitter, angry, hateful and drunk. The bad? It’s landmines and I stepped on one Saturday when those people bought my painting and rhapsodized over my work. I realized that though I’ve sold several paintings, they had all been bought by people who know me and like me. On some level my mom’s voice has said, “Well, they like you, so they bought your painting. I don’t know why they like you, but they do. If they knew you like I do, they wouldn’t have bought your painting.”
She actually DID say things like that. Publicly. Until she died.
SO my job is to get her to shut up by recognizing that I know a lot about painting. I’ve looked at paintings all over the world and done a lot of other things to “self-teach” myself. I’ve written a prize winning novel about a medieval painter. I like my paintings — not just doing them, but looking at them. I’m interested in how to do them and what I learn from them. I have painted since I was a child. It’s not a new thing. And, most of all…