A New Answer to an Old Question

I have had several visitors to my studio this month. Some shoppers, a dealer and friends. Someone asked me if I have a hard time when a painting is purchased and taken from my studio, never for me to see again. I have been asked this question several times over the years but gave a different answer this time. The answer I gave helped me to see my own growth in the last few years.

Previously, I would answer this question by saying something, like, "No, I make my paintings to sell," or "No, if people enjoy them, I'm happy for them to have them."  These answers were, and are, true. But this last week I answered "No, any individual painting is small compared to what I am developing: my visual language and my perceptions on artmaking and life."  Ultimately, my art practice has become more about my own personal development and ability than the paintings created. It is an exciting place to be.

I am a good Minnesotan: I try not to talk about myself too much, I digress to other people's opinions, and have a self-deprecating sense of humor. But, I realized several years ago, if I am going to get anywhere with my art it has to be about me. This is a literal and non-literal statement. My art doesn't have to be self-portraits or represent real events in my life, but my art has to be grounded in how I think, how I feel and how I experience life.

The journey is the Muse. My own way of interpreting (my art practice) is the venue. The outcome is a better me. What I gain from my practice of making art is of more value than the byproduct - the paintings. Selling a painting has become an act that adds more depth and satisfaction to this process instead of being the goal. To know that someone has been moved by my work, has sacrificed something to have it, and welcomed it into their life let's me be more confident in my practice, helps me understand myself differently.

I have no idea where being focused on my own personal development, as lived-out in my art practice, will lead. At the moment, it seems right and all the external indicators continue to point me in this direction. It is heart-warming to have hope in one's own future. It is exhilarating to not know what the future holds. It is happiness to have a purpose - a reason to get up every day to make discoveries. 

As I stated at the beginning of this newsletter, I am privileged. The simple act of living in this society is not hard for me. I have mental and physical space for pursuing what some would consider an esoteric endeavor. But I do see an art practice as being foundational to who I am and what it means to be a human. The response by artists and communities to the recent violence in my cities, Minneapolis and Saint Paul, only reaffirms this understanding - to be human is to create. To be human is to develop one's own language for life. To be human is to toil for years creating a better world only to determine that it isn't good enough, tear down what you have done, and be excited to wake up the next day and make new discoveries.