Validation, that is. As a therapist, I've spent much of my career validating other's intuitions, judgments, perceptions, experiences, relationships, decisions, and directions, but as an artist and sculptor, I've needed validation as much as anyone.
Four years ago, I decided to make my decision to try to sculpt public, so I did a photographic journal, if you will, from my first rather horrible attempt to sculpt, and put it out there on my personal Facebook account. Fortunately, I've had supportive friends, who have encouraged me from the get-go. I now look back on some of those pieces as they come up on Facebook "memories", and I think, "How did I ever have the nerve to post this horrible thing?"
I had the nerve because I wanted people to tell me that it was okay to try and to keep trying, even though I was in uncharted territory. I only knew that I was enjoying what I was doing and I hoped that I would slowly improve and be able to watch my growth edges, on some level, showing others that if I could grow, they could grow, too.
The other day, a sculptor I've admired for decades told me to keep doing what I was doing, saying that it was "inspiring." "Inspiring?" I thought. "Me? " If he only knew how inspiring he had been to me. I had been drawn to his work like a magnet, from the first time I saw it, over 20 years ago, and he was the first sculptor that I knew personally.
But back to validation...I've decided that in my artistic life there have been several types of validation. The first was from the supportive friends I've mentioned above, who encouraged me to do what I loved. They could find the good in almost anything I posted and it kept me going. Their friendships have endured throughout my sculpting journey and I will always be grateful for their support. Time has helped me begin to internalize their support and begin to slowly develop more of an identity as an artist. Am I an artist who happens to also be a therapist or a therapist who also happens to be an artist? That's becoming less and less clear, I think.
More recently, artistic opportunities have started to open up after I "put myself out there" by applying to various opportunities and a new level of external validation has emerged...professional validation from seasoned artists that I had hoped for but didn't necessarily expect to have happen. To my pleasant surprise, as I applied for various artistic opportunities, first I learned that I was able to participate in the juried Emerging Maker's Tent at the TN Craft Fair which I posted about a few weeks ago. Then I learned that TN Craft awarded me a scholarship for a weeklong portrait sculpting workshop this summer at the Appalachian Center for Craft, and most recently, I've learned that Vanderbilt and an artist from the World Health Organization have teamed together to develop The Art of Healing Exhibition, which selected a Covid poster I drew (with the help of Photoshop Express) that will be physically exhibited at Vanderbilt. This morning I learned that the RBG sculpture I did and the "Big Al" [Albert Einstein] bas relief hand built pencil holder that I made will be virtually exhibited by The Art of Healing Exhibition. To quote someone I know, each of these situations "is like a big hug from the Universe." I'm going to keep going and if my sculpting friend who referred to my work as inspiring is right on any level, I hope that my efforts will encourage you to try to do what you love, to put yourself out there, and when you feel ready, to take yourself to the next level by taking a risk and seeing what happens.