Several years ago I received a comment about my work that really stuck with me. Mainly because it reminded me of those back-handed compliments Old Hollywood stars, and genteel southern ladies are notorious for making. The only difference is, this was made by the head of my University’s Art Department. She was also an instructor I had nearly every semester, was my student advisor, and had a pretty good idea of my work.
‘Oh, Lily, you just always want things to be so pretty, don’t you…’
Maybe this was meant to be taken light-heartedly, but those words have been stuck in the back of my mind with the intolerable tenacity of body glitter after a music festival. You’re tired, hung over, and just want to move on….but
ITS STILL THERE
In my case, niggling away in the back of my head every time I look at a piece of my artwork. The reason I bring this up, is because as I was looking at a painting I made this week, I thought of this comment for the first time in a while.
As someone who tries to stay positive, despite dealing with depression and anxiety, this was a comment that irked me for a long time. I saw my art as an escape from my troubles. Even today, I still strive for my work to be ‘pretty,’ because I find satisfaction and comfort in something bright and uplifting, rather than spiraling down a dark hole.
I am in no way discounting artists or individuals who feel differently, but I felt there had been a line drawn in the sand, and I was standing on the wrong side. That statement, to me, meant – if your work is ‘pretty,’ it’s shallow. Art can not be meaningful, and ‘pretty’ at the same time.
Obviously this is untrue, the world is filled with beautiful artwork, and the artists who have worked to create it by pouring their heart into what they do. Besides, beauty is relative. I for one, think my cats are WAY cuter than any baby, but that is neither here nor there.
Long story short, you do you boo. Embrace what you make, find inspiration from others, but don’t be confined by the parameters of someone else.