Friday, June 3, 2011

About the Test

This weekend many of the artists of Humboldt County, California will be opening our studios to the public. While I have raced to get ready, I have been feeling the kind of anxiety that always comes on when I am about to show new work.

Getting ready means setting up to show new work while at the same time giving visitors a look into the reality of life in the workspace. Making my crowded studio visitor friendly is a challenge and I am fortunate to have an engineer daughter who takes on the chores thwarted by my right-brained mode.

The anxiety about showing the work and meeting the public is history that recurs again and again and is probably a bit milder than it was in the beginning. I have delved into my psyche in an attempt to understand it. The hope is that understanding what it’s about would help to diminish its power over me.

What came to mind today was that TV show I used to watch called “Inside The Actors’ Studio”. Towards the end of the interview there were some questions that were the same every week. One was (paraphrased) “What would you like God to say to you when you meet him in heaven?” My response to that would be that I would want him to pat me on the back and say: “You did good”. As if life were a test. We are born into circumstances that we don’t elect for ourselves and our lives require constant choices and decisions. So if there is some deity who is going to review how we did with the hand we were dealt, I don’t want to hear him say: “This is what you did with what I gave you?” 

The reality for most of us living in this culture, is that we are free to make our lives as we will. That said, I am fully aware that many of us are born into conditions that are close to impossible to overcome. And in the poorer countries the proportions of those who struggle to survive in the face of insurmountable obstacles is huge. 

I suppose that luck can play a part too, though I have never counted on it. Fantasized, yes, but expected, no. We do love stories about those people who defy the odds and come out winners. We cheer on the underdog in a competition if we know how much it means to him and how hard he has worked for it. I wonder if prevailing over difficulties is becoming less common as the world changes. I sincerely hope that is not the case.

Allan Sherman: Grandma cheated whenever she could. She cheated because it was a much more scientific and surer way of winning than trusting to luck.

The image above is Dusk One, ©2011, archival ink on acid free paper, size varies. It is one of the new prints that will be available this weekend and next at my open studio. For more information go to North Coast Open Studios 2011 -- Humboldt County, California or email me at

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