After writing the last post, I had a funny revelation about shining cloth, mirror work and the way it's been used for protection. I had a really challenging week, in which I completely lost my center and my sense of worth; all kinds of people were projecting all kinds of negative stuff on me, or else presenting themselves for applause and approval from me without wanting to give anything back or show any loyalty. It took me all week to piece together exactly why I felt so bad. No victims here -- I seem to set myself up for these situations; not a surprise, since I grew up in a family where it is a veritable tradition to project all dysfunction onto me. I even had a dream about Yoko Ono, surely the archetype for a woman upon whom all manner of negativity was projected, and one who paid a price for not being a conventional giggly girl.
I'm not sure how to handle it better, and I don't want to overshare, but as I was having this realization about projection, I thought -- that's what the mirror work is all about! I need more glittery shiny cloth to deflect it all.
Back at the ranch, I have been turning over and over my thoughts on Heather's post about not calling herself an artist, in reaction to so many people posturing as artists when they appear to be just dallying in one craft trend after another. Each time I start to write about it I find myself in the quagmire of art vs. craft, of how women (mostly) devalue their work and don't take themselves seriously, of how not wanting to appear self-promotional or conceited makes us hesitate to claim our position. I also agree with Heather to some degree, and I've posted about it often enough to not retread old ground, but I do think there's some arrogance floating around in the craft world from people who proclaim themselves experts without much expertise. That's why I began thinking about Slow Cloth, and trying to identify and articulate the value in honoring multicultural textile traditions.
I'm ambivalent myself. I studied art, I have a cum laude degree in art from a fairly reputable institution, and from the time I was about 6, being an artist was the life I have wanted. Yet for many years I haven't lived it consistently enough to feel comfortable freely calling myself an artist now (I'm working on it, but when I try it on for size I squirm). I don't have a current body of work that looks like it all came from the same person exploring themes or ideas in depth.
So that's the task in front of me, because I do want to be able to call myself an artist with comfort and pride and no twinges of impostorship. Fortunately, I have people in my life who have known me longer and think of me as an artist. For a long time my artistry, such as it is, has existed only in the reflection they give me (another kind of mirror work), and I'm very grateful for it.
What makes an artist, and what makes us afraid of getting down to work when it's all we want to be? Eric Maisel, in Coaching the Artist Within, says that the first step is believing that you matter. I think there are parallels here with yoga. There are postures in yoga that are very, very difficult to do if you're feeling terrible about yourself. They're not difficult physically, but something inside has to be willing to enter into a powerful stance that reflects a strong but balanced ego. A false front won't work -- the minute you lose humility and start congratulating yourself on your fine asana, you'll stumble.
In belly dance, as well, it's impossible to dance well (and I'm a beginner, so take this for what it's worth) if you don't feel beautiful, if you can't lift your sternum and open your heart and find the part of you that is a channel for alluring grace, who is deserving of adoration, even if you're 50, menopausal, and society is telling you repeatedly that you're invisible and unwanted.
This is all loaded with risk. Ask Yoko Ono! And thanks for reading another loooong post about me and this strange time in my life. More on textile resources and ideas and links and art soon.