Because Life Ain't Pretty...
The further along I trudged my artistic path, the more envious I became of the artists coming right out of college who knew themselves. I wanted so badly to be able to break free from my pre-conceived notions of what art was "supposed" to look like. Returning to grad school for my master's was a challenge. Not only was I one of the older students in the program, but I had been taught by my parents, media, society, etc. that I was supposed to make art that was "pretty." And in doing so it would sell. Because selling was the ultimate measure of success.
I was relieved to learn that is not the case. But breaking free of old habits is torture. It wasn't until I went to the Halle St. Pierre last summer in Paris and stumbled upon Paul Toupet that I realized what I want to be when I grow up. I am no longer concerned with "pretty." Just as it has taken me years to accept myself as I am, it has taken even longer to accept my art as it is. But really, they are one in the same. I can't separate myself from my art, and I no longer feel like I have to. It is an evolution that is exciting and scary, but nevertheless, necessary.
I don't know if I will sell out shows like I did before grad school. I don't know if I'll be doing commissioned paintings anymore. I don't know if my work will be considered "pretty" anymore, but I know there is a place for it. It has taken me thirty-eight years to gain self-acceptance as an artist. It isn't as early as I would have liked, but had I not returned to school it might never have happened. Had I not divorced and been shoved out of my comfort zone, I never would have returned to school. I am the happiest I've been in a long time and welcome this next chapter no matter what it looks like!
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Lisa M. Williamson is an artist living in Memphis, TN.