Saturday, September 18, 2010

Self Awareness for Saturday

Seekers Of A Lost Truth 50cm x 60cm
© 2007  Tracey Hewitt

As an artist who has invested some time learning about art marketing from Alyson B Stanfield, I should have been prepared. I should have known to be prepared. But I so was not prepared! Perhaps it was because I was so preoccupied with creating the table centres for the Theodore Chamber of Commerce dinner, perhaps it was the thousand other things that have been going on and needing my consideration and attention or perhaps I'm just plain flaky...Whatever the reason, halfway through dinner, the auctioneer for the evening came to me and asked me what the piece I had donated for the auction was about.

How is it possible that I was siting there, stammering, opening and closing my mouth like a landed fish, with nothing sensible - let alone articulate and intelligent - to say?! Why hadn't I been prepared for this? Why hadn't I even given a passing thought to the fact I would need to be prepared for this? Good questions indeed - and no answers.

Thanks to the help of my good friend Kathy (who I have a lot more to tell you about very soon...) I managed to cobble a few thoughts together to help this poor fellow give the crowd a bit of a spiel about the piece before he started to call for bids - which to my immense relief came quickly and to a much bigger number than I'd ever imagined! I learned a couple of valuable things last night. Be prepared! I was a Brownie, Girl Guide and Ranger Guide in my youth...How is it I didn't have that down already?! It's next to impossible to articulate anything about something as deeply personal as a piece of artwork if you haven't given yourself the gift of a few moments to anticipate the kind of questions you'll be asked and how you might answer them - my head was so full of table centres, bankers, accountants, sons and loved ones that this piece of artwork had no place of it's own there all week.

The thing I found myself reflecting most deeply on though, was how very uncomfortable I felt with a few quite direct questions about "What does it mean?" Initially, my response was that while I may have something in mind as I created the piece, what was important to me was for each individual to experience their own response to it - that I hoped the viewer would interpret the piece in their own way - find their own unique meaning within it. I felt almost irritated that I was being interrogated and forced to 'explain' it in great detail. I later realised that the poor man was probably feeling a bit out of his depth, his auctioneering experience in the past heavily weighted to property, cattle and items with which he felt he had a greater understanding and knowledge of. He was just trying to get some information to help him do the job well (which, I must say, he did!). I thought a lot about my feelings of discomfort and difficulty expressing the meaning of the piece - then it struck me. If I could put it into words, I'd write it, not paint it! It's a feeling, it's broad and deep and powerful and in my heart I know exactly what it means, but I struggle to put words around it. I'd love to hear in the comments if you have these kinds of struggles...

Next time I donate a piece of work for auction, I'll take the time to provide a carefully worded, well prepared artist statement, just as I would for an exhibition. I will be prepared. And, I'll have a better idea of how to respond to "But what does it mean?" I'll also remember to take my camera, so I can share a photo of the lovely family the piece is going to live with!

6 comments:

Hannah said...

Tracy,I enjoyed reading your post--especially the part about the auctioneer's expertise with cattle. Although people see me as someone who speaks easily, when it comes to my art, I get tongue tied. Even if I've written it out beforehand in a statement, I find it difficult to say one or two simple sentences. It's one of those things I keep "meaning to get to" and I don't. You've got me thinking now...:)

Tracey said...

I feel better hearing that, Hannah! This issue is something of an ongoing struggle...it's good to know I'm not alone!

lynnbridge said...

Tracey, I had to laugh at your descriptions of the experience. I have definitely been tongue-tied before, so this felt 'real' to me.

Tracey said...

Lynn, I still am fascinated that it never even crossed my mind that I might need something in my mind! Isn't it just an awful feeling?! May we be well prepared in the future, and never feel 'tongue tied' again!

Peta said...

As I was reading this blog I was nodding my head in agreement! I have found it difficult when asked 'on the spot' to describe what my art is about, it's meaning and symbolism....of course I know what it is about...but to put words around it that make sense to someone else is difficult. Writing an artists statement does help me to talk about the meaning of my work, but still sometimes I am 'lost for words'. Maybe I just need a heap more practice and also I agree with your thinking Tracey, I need to be prepared!

Tracey said...

Gee it's good to keep hearing that others suffer as I do in this! Thanks for chiming in Peta!