So Wednesday 3rd August was my first meeting with my new mentor, Susan Mumford. I was exhausted before I arrived; this was largely due to my inability to sleep when I’m nervous (I was very nervous) and my lovely, but insane husband, thinking it would be a good idea to beat the traffic — I should point out to my husband this means leaving at 7 (he had to be talked down from 5am) to get there for 11:50 for a journey that according to Google takes 1.5-3 hours at most.
Anyhow, back to my meeting.
So luckily for me Susan, or her PA, had double booked my session with a panel she was chairing at Mall Galleries. Now you might wonder why that is lucky, well it is for this reason: she felt guilty, and I think partly because she knew I’d be writing about it as part of my bursary, and so she asked if we could make the session earlier (midday) and then I would be her VIP guest at the panel event that afternoon. So of course I jumped at the chance.
Now I was even luckier since due to my being reliant on a wheelchair, and due to this needing to come up to London by car (believe me, public transport is horrendous for disabled people), the lovely Liberty at the Mall Galleries had very kindly arranged with the Royal Parks for me to be able to park in The Slips and I was treated really well by the Mall Galleries all day.
Right back to the session. Now this session was kind of my getting to know you session and what I wanted; which on that day was advice about how best to deal with promoting myself at the upcoming MA show and my separate installation taking place at University of Portsmouth and I did find it helpful.
You see I am a terrible sufferer of impostor syndrome, and I say “suffer” as I do; I berate everything I create after a couple of weeks; have no confidence in selling myself (my artwork) and have been known to run out of a PV or two having a panic attack. Now this is quite different to how I am about other people’s work. As mentioned on other blogs, I co-direct an arts organisation, have created an arts festival, co-run a not for profit gallery and curate various exhibitions. Where other people are concerned and the organisation I can confidently wax lyrical, it’s just with myself, well it’s a completely different situation.
Susan was great she mentioned impostor syndrome even before I did and we talked about why I’m like that. Words like “authentic” were offered about my work and why I have trouble blowing my own trumpet.
I talked to her about my two large pieces coming up in exhibition this August and she loved them.
Although my sessions are booked in with Susan she also suggested I would benefit from a coaching session with one of her business coaches so that I can get past this block I have. As I am seeing her due to the bursary I’ve received she offered to schedule it in as one of my sessions which I have agreed to and I now just need to sort out when that will happen. Susan has suggested this needs to happen before my MA shows but I do not have the time for this sadly: I am way behind schedule as it is….. but that is a different story.
The only bit of advice I found that did not really work for me, was the idea for me to employ a PA. When I explained that I could not afford this, it was suggested that they would pay for themselves after the first month. I could not take a risk like this as my work is not in the least bit commercial, so despite it making sense in many ways it just does not work for me. I feel this leaves me at a bit of an impasse at the moment. Will I progress in my career as I’d like if I cannot sort this? She did however offer an alternative if I didn’t believe this was possible, and in many ways her views reflected my own: that is that I need to start talking about my own work as I do other people’s and promoting my work in the way I do the shows we exhibit.
After our meeting I ate lunch in the park and then returned for the afternoon session. It was an intriguing panel event about the value of women only competitions and organisations. On the panel was Eliza Gluckman of the New Hall Art Collection; Sue Jelley, artist and president of the Society of Women Artists and Melanie Casoff of the Freelands Foundation (notable for their recent introduction of a £100,000 prize for mid-career women artists); the panel was chaired by Susan herself.
I found the panel really interesting and a consensus was reached that things still need to change for women although they are going in the right direction. There were surreal moments, such as when Sue Jelley started going off on one about male buttocks, but overall I was really glad I stayed. I only wish I had more of a chance to network with the other artists and the panellists.