When I was a child my life ambitions vacillated between wanting it to be discovered that I was a princess being raised by the wrong family, and simply being famous. At age 55 I am forced to admit that the former is untrue and it’s too late for the latter. Perhaps infamous is still doable, but famous requires work. Or at least the famous I wanted to be–the one where people buy your work and at least one piece is in a museum.
I have always been the creative type. I found out at a young age that being busy making something in my family meant I was left alone. I was the middle of 5 children, and alone time, as an introvert, was precious difficult to get and oh so necessary. I made clothes for my dolls, knitted this and that, later made clothes for myself, always always wrote–journal, poems, letters, stories. Later I quilted, embroidered, needlepointed, painted, and sketched inbetween learning small engine mechanics (my dad’s idea, not mine–but I had a talent for it) and photography. Making things has been something I am compelled to do, not something I elect to do in my spare time. I don’t have much choice in the matter and over the course of my life I have learned to measure my mental state by looking at my creativity, because, like everyone else, I am adept at deluding myself into thinking I am “fine” when I am not.
If I were to measure my worth based on sheer volume of crap I’ve made, then baby I’m a millionaire. Most people I know own–or at least have been given as I do not know the fate of objects once they pass from my hands–at least one thing I have made. My mother has multiple things, many of which perished in a house fire in 2004, so I have had to replenish her supply. As my mommy, she says she loves it all. I am not convinced it is worthy of such praise, but hey, it’s out of my garage so I’m thankful for that. My daughter also has a lot of stuff along with each of my siblings and many friends. And there’s still a shitload still in my house. I recently pitched a bunch of old canvases which I stupidly told some people about and they were horrified. I assure you, I kept the good stuff–all that was crap waiting to be painted over. Really.
Lately I have been feeling a great deal of time pressure. I don’t know how much time I have left to haul large format gear all around creation taking shots; how long I will have the energy to do it; whether I will feel as compelled to do it 2 years or 20 years hence. I don’t know if it will matter then, but it seems to now. I am as driven to create as I ever was but, when I was in my 30s I had loads of time. I don’t anymore. I am running out of years to put in the work required to Be Famous.
On the other hand, part of me doesn’t give a shit. When I was a kid I made stuff simply to make it. Later I made stuff so I could get what I wanted but either couldn’t find or couldn’t afford. Then I started making stuff to say something. That was a great place to be because I felt my work had meaning, if only to me. Now I have arrived at a place where what I have to say is a mystery even to me. I lay out the work I am compelled to make and I don’t know what I see. By this time in my life I should have settled on a style, a metaphor, a direction and instead I am more confused than ever.
I have to let go of the notion of being famous. It will come or it will not and neither should effect the work. Growing older means letting go of a lot of stuff: a svelte shape, good eyesight, career goals, friendships that no longer work, and yes, being famous. Instead, I need to embrace the place I am creatively. Perhaps my confusion is simply the cusp of a new creative output of which I yet know little. After all this time as a creative person you would think I had learned to trust the process and instead of worrying about where I find myself, be excited. I’m working on it. That’s all I can do.