Do we know if we’re funny or smart or appropriate if we are not bouncing off another person? Doesn’t most of our sense of who we are and how we fit into our world depend greatly on how others respond to us? A salary, being fairly paid for our labor is warranted reward. Being told you look good is better than your mirror. Being remembered on your birthday, very pleasant. Receiving a grant is validation with cash; how nice!
Long ago I read an interview with Eva Hesse, the German painter who died young in New York City in 1970. She said something about being strengthened by the attention she received. Art critic Arthur Danto mentioned she always felt she was fighting for recognition in a male dominated art world. That was back in the sixties but given the self-doubt she suffered I imagine it would not have been much different at a later time. I am sure that every pat on the back that came her way was much appreciated.
Another long ago article that I clipped told of how winning an Oscar helps you to live longer. Evidently an average of four more years. Hmm…that wasn’t cosmetic surgery? The writer goes on to say multiple winners average about six years longer than their peers. He quotes Dr. Donald Redelmeier of the University of Toronto: “Once you get the Oscar, it gives you an inner sense of peace and accomplishment that can last your entire life. That alters the way your body deals with stress.”
Now since most of us are more likely to watch the Oscar event this month than we are to win one, we need to find our validation through other routes. After all, we don’t want to miss out on the possibility of adding a few more years to our stay. Something I have done a couple of times is call my own phone number while I’m out and leave a warm message for myself. Fun to do but I doubt it will increase my longevity. The experience of exhibiting paintings is a two edged sword. The admiring comments that come from friends and family are great, we want their support, but there could be some bias there. While it might sound crass, the most gratifying response comes from making sales. If somebody likes your work enough to want to pay for it and live with it, that’s very real validation. And when there are no sales it doesn’t matter much that the previous show sold out. The success needs to happen with some constancy. Whereas winning an Oscar or two seems to suffice.
From Joseph Campbell: “Any life career that you choose in following your bliss should be chosen with that sense – that nobody can frighten me off this thing. And no matter what happens, this is the validation of my life and action.”
The image above is like the one of last week of some of the collage material that I put together on my computer. It is part of what I will be doing while I wait to have a complete studio again.