Updated: Apr 29, 2021
TW: Themes of death/grief and saying goodbye.
If you ask anyone who has lost someone during their life they will tell you in painful detail and sometimes even without words just how profoundly that loss has affected their daily life. They miss seeing them every day. Calling upon them. Spending time with them. Fearful of losing memories they shared. The list, much like those left behind, goes on. ‘Wait- ‘ you may think, ‘This is getting a little heavy, isn’t this a blog about art?’ It is, I promise. Though I feel as though to fully grasp these concepts it is important to capture and feel the sense of loss in order to fully absorb and relate to the subject matter we are about to delve into. Tragically it is hard to find anyone who has not felt the sting of losing someone close at one point or in one form or another. Someone you had once felt so close and connected to that you nearly caught yourself spiritually entangled with them on a meta level. It could have been a friend, a partner or even a family member. The point is it was someone. Connect to that feeling if you can just for a bit longer as we traverse that feeling in the themes of art, death, and joy.
As you may be aware of if you follow me on social media or have browsed my website, one of the subjects I choose to incorporate into my art work are themes of death. Because I have experienced my own various forms of loss, it is a subject that crept onto the canvas without protest and has stayed there evolving with my skill as an artist. However, over the years I have learned that death and loss are a part of every creators everyday reality no matter their subject or media of choice.
People connect to what we toss onto a canvas or mix in a studio enough to want to make it part of their own identity and personal makeup. They want it enough to buy it and let it enter their own private space. In the first steps of a new business, making a sale is a thrill but it is a bittersweet one. For independent creators who create one of a kind works such as fine art or textiles it can be so hard to let something go that you have poured so many countless hours and passion into. I can remember one time when I sold a piece I immediately had to hold back tears because I realized I’d never see it again. There was such a sense of fear and feeling of loss that I so despised, and worse, I feared perhaps I was, on top of all these feelings, losing a part of myself that I had incorporated into this work of art that I would never see again. It’s needless to say that art is personal. It is especially so for its creator the artist. We have raised and evolved our trade by creating each work that is completed. We watched every step and sat through the difficult, problem-solving moments and the break-throughs. Most importantly, we persevered and saw each piece through to the end result you see on the gallery wall.
Now you have your very first art show booked at the perfect venue. It’s opening reception night and you have made yourself into a flawless representation of the art children, art partners, art lovers you have spent countless days, nights, weeks, months creating, nurturing, perfecting, loving. One sells, then two… Initially excitement races through to your very core until you are suddenly struck- They’re sold means they’re gone.
It has taken me a very long time to unlearn attachment and identity and cultivate a healthy detachment in its place. Not in a boastful or dishonest way, but rather a cultivation of joy for the final stage in my art or designs life: To enrich the life of another person and bring them the same joy in my works new life that it gave me during the time I spent bringing that work to life.
Brief personal spill story: I was polyamorous for a spell. Honestly it wasn’t for me, but it did teach me a lot about how I view my work and how I relate to it. I learned and grew to be proud of my work, something I invested my time and love into, for being something that someone else found beautiful and worth investing in. Instead of anxious or even saddened when I sold something I found that after some practice I was happy to meet the new owner of my art or design and felt more at ease asking them questions such as where they planned to place the work or wear their new piece of art. They always each had a unique answer that brought me a giddy sort of pride. The beauty of being a one-of-a-kind creator is that the person that goes home with your work will rarely see it as anything less than a perfect fit that was always meant for them. They feel a connection, they hear the story you are telling and they know immediately that it was theirs all along- And in time I learned to see and experience and come to understand that same joy with each client that took something home.
Occasionally I will see a photograph of my work being worn or displayed (or both!) and it is like seeing an old friend married to the love of their life. It is indescribable and it is beautiful.
Sometimes when we create art we feel as though we lose a part of ourselves in what we are creating- and it’s not even necessarily intentional! There is a natural sacrifice of time, devotion, passion and skill that gets any work of art to completion. We could make and keep all of our beautiful creations for ourselves hidden from sight, but if you truly love them, why not share their beauty with the world? Why not allow others to experience that same feeling? Why not let go and appreciate the cycle?
Though we cannot know what death itself has in store for us when our physical bodies expire, it is a similar sentiment. We have had our short, sweet time, lessons, experiences, and now the time has come to an end. I will take this junction in the blog to carefully explore another facet of the art of letting go- Identity.
I briefly mentioned identity earlier, but I think it is an important part of any creators personal code that is discarded the most with so little foresight. I think it's good to remember that much like our social lives and the people we invest our time in, keeping and maintaining an identity aside from our likes, our people, and all things corporeal and cerebral is essential as an artist. It’s the same for our creations, our art babies, our designs: We are creating for the sake of sharing and spreading their wings to enrich each of the lives they touch that bring them to their final resting place. Whether that afterlife is great grandmas jewelry box, a carefully chosen section of wall in a meaningful room or more profoundly- the body of a deceased loved one, it is so important to note that though your art has sold, nobody can take You away with your art. Conflating self-identity with our art is something I constantly see fellow creators struggling with, so much that I will most likely continue this avenue of thought more thoroughly in a prospective blog. For now, I would love to leave you with this:
Practice joy. Share that joy with your clients. Especially if they pick something up for themselves or someone they love. This is why I love taking the time to take photographs of my clients with my work if they decide to take something home from an event or gallery opening. It is a memory of a moment where the cycle has come full circle and my art is finally laid to rest in its final resting place: A visual memento mori. Remember that the effort and love is not gone with each piece that is made then sold, but rather, it evolves and grows with you. Enriching you anew with each new connection.