Insecurity in Art.

Last Tuesday morning as I sat in a cafe chatting with a friend and getting ready to launch my new art shop, my best friend was preparing her culinary midterm project. This is her first term in pastry making, and she was nervous. Ten minutes into the process, she accidentally sliced open her finger as her professor watched, sliced it open badly enough that she had to leave her midterm and go to the emergency room for stitches. The poor girl. Mercifully, her instructor told her she could retake the midterm on Thursday. He knows from experience the nervousness, the danger of being a brand new chef in a kitchen full of fellow brand new chefs.

And this morning was so much like another morning I remember. It was late August, at the very beginning of my sophomore year. I was standing at my easel for the first day of Drawing I. The classroom was warm in the haze of an un-air-conditioned building, but I was scratching away at my sketchpad, glancing back and forth between my page and the prop - a lone orchid on a stool in the middle of our circle. I glanced at the girl next to me. My orchids drooped, clunky with the weight of too much shading, while her feathery petals sloped delicately across the page. I felt suddenly, regrettably faint. My face flushed with anxiety and blackness clouded the corners of my vision. I couldn't breathe. The professor walked past, and noticed my hand poised motionless over the paper. 

"How's it going?" she asked brightly. 

In a shaky voice I asked to sit down. She went and found me a glass of water and let me sit, head between my knees, until I could breathe again. I couldn't bear to look up and see if the other students were stealing glances at me and my incomplete page. As soon as class was dismissed I rushed back to my room and collapsed in the middle of our floor to the half amusement and concern of my roommates. 

There are a hundred more moments like this one built up in my head : the time when, reading aloud in front of my advanced composition class,  I stumbled over the same phrase in my own essay several times before finally reading it right. The time when another art professor walked into the quiet and mostly empty art studio and criticized my painting, even though I wasn't his student. The time that I cut my own finger while slicing bread with Erica for dinner - I nearly passed out and she had to bandage my finger for me. 

These moments pile, one on top of the other, like bricks. My insecurity is the mortar that seals them all together into a thick barrier that separates what I am doing now from what I want to be doing in the future. I become hardened and indifferent to art, believing that there is no place for it in my life. I am not meant for it. It is not mine to enjoy.

But it's a defense mechanism, this wall. It puts me in a dark place where my blog posts and poetry and sketches stay buried, lest someone finds them lacking and amateur. It's where all my excuses are born, reasons to keep my cooking and my art and my writing to myself. It helps me hide away my thin skin.

But what joy is there in art unshared? A slip of the knife is an easy mistake. No matter how steady our hands, we are all thin-skinned and fragile, vulnerable and easily exposed. A wall will only bury us and who we really are. There is no joy in that.

I'm working to break down the walls I've built around myself, to bare my thin skin and share my art with others, no matter how painful the process, no matter how raw it makes me.

We have to be willing to slice ourselves open, to pour ourselves out onto the page. 

Are you in a dark place? What walls have you built around yourself? What painful moments are you holding onto, or rather,

What painful moments are holding you back?

[All images by me, Bethany Suckrow.]


JM said...

Insecurity is that dark part of life that makes us human. We realize we can't do everything at once or even that we can't come to terms with our own reality. The ability to be creative or productive really makes our insecurities shine. Somehow we manage to rise above it and later when we look back on it, just seems silly. It's only then that we get to know what we can really accomplish. My painful moment now is not being able to see my son every day from my divorce. I spent years building a wall around my own life so that I would never have to deal with this type of loss, but as I started to become my own person for the first time in my life, I chose to break all the walls and just let all my insecurities fill me with pain and joy, sometimes the two seem indistinguishable, but nonetheless I'm a better person for it!

chels said...

"We have to be willing to slice ourselves open, to pour ourselves out onto the page."
i like.

Anonymous said...

It is easy to let insecurities hold you back, but one of the best things is to surround yourself with supportive people. They help you get over those inevitable breakdowns, come back even better, and sometimes get an A on a makeup midterm. :)

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