What does it mean to have the little red dot next to your piece in a gallery? How does it feel to be a student with a photograph in a real show for the first time?
I have shown at my school a few times and on my Mom's refrigerator since I was two. Since being in Boston, I have fallen in love with the gallery scene. I take pleasure in hob-knobbing with the rich and moderately famous of the art world. It was all very exciting to be around such great work and free wine, but I had never had the chance to actually be hanging my work in one of those spacious and all-too-intimidating South End galleries. That is, until Friday the eleventh of November when Taking In had its opening at the Rhys Gallery in the South End. Taking In is a collection of photography and film put together by students at the Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University.
I sit here now to write how I felt the moment I walked in the door and I saw my work hanging on a well-lit white wall; and the moment I awkwardly shared with the woman who bought my piece. These flashes of time, much like those captured in the photographs on the walls of the gallery, are now gone and I am left here trying to process what all of it means. It seems, however, that no matter how many times I replay these scenes in my mind, I can't ignore the childlike excitement that surrounds them. I want to have some sort of amazing revelation after having sold my first piece and had my first real show. Instead, I feel like a kid hitting a home run in little league with both of my parents watching, or losing a tooth in the middle of second grade math, realizing I would never be "cool" and, therefore, being cooler.
But what does it all mean, being a student, showing, and selling work? Beyond the innocent amazement of being accepted and wanted, I felt like I was an artist. That is the feeling I have been seeking since the first time I picked up a camera. So what is it about that sense of affirmation from someone on the outside that is so pleasing to us? Is it specific to artists, or does everyone seek this assurance from people they are not related to? Do all artists even seek it? I don't know if anyone really knows why we desire to be affirmed so much, but I do know that as an artist and a person, I do require it. But let's be honest, if I didn't have some opinion I wouldn't be writing this. So while I may not have all of the answers I do have some ideas, even if they are only for me.
As a student and an artist I am defining who I am, not solely but largely, by other people. My professors have been telling me since freshman year to consider my audience, "How will people read this? How will people enter this photograph?" The idea that I was making art for people beyond a class-room and even outside of the school blew my mind like a twelve gauge. In high school I was content with the empty and endless praises of Mr. B, the most benign of high school photography teachers. Although I was accustomed to it, I still needed it. Even though I knew that he gave the same praise to every toneless picture of a cat, I still placed value on it. Now that I am in art school the bar has been raised. My main critics, unlike Mr. B, are practicing artists with truly valuable opinions, and beyond my professors the art scene of Boston waits with her eager, yet tepid arms, for my emergence. There are all of these opinions and potential opinions, both good and bad, circling like vultures over my work. I cover myself, but all too often one or two get in to pick and gnaw. Most of the time this is a trying process reminiscent of chewing on tin foil. But then there are the ones that are good, those critiques that go just right. It's like I'm that kid again, the home-run king. That's what it was like on Friday night, the eleventh of November.
I know I have asked a lot more then I have answered. I know that that is not fair. I don't know if I'll ever be able to fully articulate what I felt that night. Now it's gone. Hopefully, I'll get a chance to experience it a few more times. Hopefully, it will never be dulled by repetition.
"Taking In" is on view November 11 - December 3, 2005 at The Rhys Gallery.
All images are courtesy of the artist and The Rhys Gallery.