Art and Fear. Art and Uncertainty.

Making Art and trying to live as a Maker, be it of art, music, or writing, is to put oneself in a world of questioning and uncertainty.

Tonight I went to an opening and saw many old friends, including a friend newly returned to St. Louis. Walking around I felt conscious of my being both an insider, from my perspective, and a visitor, through my friends eyes.  My mind was aware of awkward social cues, people that did or did not acknowledge me.  Through my friends eyes, I was reminded how in the larger scope of the world, a single person's opinion of me didn't really matter.
As I hugged an old friend, he asked me how my project was going, this three year pursuit.  I said well, but hard. I'm in the home stretch.  He hugged me, I imagined he was thinking, "She is all washed up".  He never said this, and I know it wasn't true, but in moments like gallery social settings there is a strange inner critic that works its magic.

You see, I've never worked on a single project for so long.  I'm much more comfortable with short project stints that culminate in a series of shows throughout the year. My inner fear is that by taking on this giant, I've suddenly rendered myself inconsequential.  Actually the list continues:  I am afraid I've wasted my time, I'm afraid the people I've made this film with won't like it, I'm afraid of mis-representing people as I work on the film, I'm afraid of being ostracized from my hometown after I share it.  I'm afraid of being an amateur or lacking skills.  I'm afraid of people laughing at my simple techniques.  And this is also the reason why this film might actually be worth something; because in spite of all these mounting fears, I've continued to work on it.  The reason I think I need to make this piece is in part because I am so scared to make this piece.
I've heard people say in passing to me, "Oh, you are an artist? That must be so much fun!"  As if I just sat around popping out masterpieces, blissed out in my studio.
The reality is that being an artist is hard and I don't mean in the Van Gogh, poor tortured soul stereotype way.

For the past year being an artist has meant the following to me:
Working a regular job and then going to my studio multiple nights a week.  Spending my weekends in the studio instead of relaxing or doing things in the community.  Not seeing friends for weeks and months because I don't have money to go out and I don't have money to travel.  Forgoing vacations because they represent time and money lost from the studio. Putting on weight because I suddenly don't have as much time to work out, if I want to still spend time with the people.  Going through sporadic periods of having no money as I wait for the next grant installment to process.  Forgoing haircuts and new tennis shoes for a shopping spree at Value Village.  Wow, I'm really bitching right now.  And I realize that I have made these decisions.  Here is another side.

It is incredibly hard to work multiple jobs and carve out a consistent studio practice, even living in inexpensive St. Louis.  I felt as when I was given this window of time, via grants, that I had to do the very best I could do and not waste the opportunity.  Sure in the future, I'll be a little smarter about the size of a task I take on, relative to the amount of money, and I think I wise up about this ratio a little more each time.  I am making an hour long animation.  It takes me 20hours to make approximately 1 minute.  This totals, and I am doing the math right now....1200hours just in animation production. Crazy.

In the end, I don't make art to make money.  I make art because there is a voice inside of me that says I need to, because this is what I have to contribute to this place and to make meaning of my time here.  Each artwork I make is a little different, but with Elegy to Connie I thought, "Sarah, if you don't make this piece, your connection and history with this story, will be washed away and it will happen again and again.  Make this piece to mend the wounds of time, to peal back the walls of our collective history." And I have to tell you, whenever there is another new mass shooting, it haunts me, and I think, I can't work fast enough.


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