Mari Pat Doyle Oberg

responds to the challenge:

“What would you attempt if you knew you would not fail?” These are the words printed on the lovely lady sitting on the moon ornament that my best friend Anni gave me for Yule several years ago. I have it hung on the lampshade in the living room. Even though it has been there for a long time it has not slipped into that invisible familiarity that some objects we’ve had around us for a long time seem to do, it continues to catch my eye, the text still speaks boldly. The question plagues me. Somehow it seemed relevant when [info]tricia_joy presented her challenge on Sunday. Failure is perhaps my biggest fear. It’s tied into my self-oriented perfectionism, keeps me from working with materials I‘m not skilled with. It is a stumbling block that interferes wtih my finishing art projects. It gets in the way of putting myself “out there” by sharing things I’ve created. I do not judge others with the same juried expectations I apply to myself.

This week I looked at the “art” I have around my home. Some of it I would not hang on the walls if my home were only my home, but I have to accommodate my husband’s preferences as well, it’s his home too. But there is precious little of my own work displayed. Most of it is tucked away, or it’s been sent off to someone else in a round robin or a swap, or as a gift. In retrospection I think it’s interesting that the things I finish and send off are usually the things I feel most invested in and confident about. Perhaps it’s the letting go of the objects that does away with my fear. Or maybe it’s a fear of being judged that keeps me from displaying my work in my own home. I’ve been hesitant to call myself an artist in the traditional sense. I’ve come to the art world so late in life, but this old dog IS learning new tricks. My work, my skills, and the mediums I use have changed tremendously over the past 10 years. I know I am creative but I am more comfortable painting with words, sculpting with metaphors and more comfortable stitching together thoughts into a collage of ideas and imagery. But I am determined to conquer my fears and master new skills.

The things that reflect my spirituality and my heart are usually the better of my works. I don’t know that a stranger who looks at most of the art would see the depth of who I am. I suppose that is there for them to see. It depends on what they’re looking for. I think that even in viewing others’ work we tend to project ourselves into the work, and see in their art a mirror of our own soul and beliefs. I don’t know that someone who sees any art I’ve made would say they really know me at all. I don’t allow a lot of people to get close to me, to know me really well. It’s tied into my fear of failure. (In psychology we call it “imposter syndrome”). I tell myself I make art just for me, but if I am honest, because of my lack of confidence in my skills, I have a fear that people will think I’m a poser and probably would look at my work dismiss it and call me shallow, a dabbler , because I really don’t have a lot of substance in my work for them to see. But then that depends on who’s viewing my work. When looking at some of the things I have “out there”, as a stranger I might think “She is afraid to color outside the lines.” But then other things I’ve done might show more of the complex woman that I am. When I make art the best of my art is art that changes me as I create it. Perhaps the process is more important to me than the results. I am perhaps in a sense creating myself, uncovering knowledge of myself, carving out some aspect previously unseen when I stretch myself somewhat making art..

Do I know any artists whose work truly reflects who they are? I can think of dozens whom I admire, particularly because it does reflect the person I have come to “know”. I think that their art has helped me discover different ways of seeing the world around me. But do I know them? Sometimes I catch a glimpse of who they are, but I believe that the sum total of all our work is only a facet of who we really are, who we show the world, just as we can only know people in the limited sense through other mediums like Livejournal where the words on the screen do not reflect always reflect the breadth and depth of experience, tone and nuances that lie unheard between the lines. Visual art is just as vulnerable to misinterpretation as written communication . I admire artists who think outside the box, who see the world differently than I. I especially treasure those who allow me to glimpse their world and aren‘t cranking out cookie cutter art. Art can be such an intimate exchange between artist and viewer, but unless you know the artist you might not have the code to translate what they are saying.

Because of work and the demands on my time and energy in my personal life this week I’ve not had time to finish the small project I started in response. I decided to work in a medium in which I’m not comfortable. When I finish the small polymer clay figure I started I will post it another day.  


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