In the opening paragraph of a piece on Swedish artist Maj Bring (1880 – 1971), Johanna Uddèn refers to Bring’s frustration at women artists not being taken seriously. My mind wandered and wondered if I am taken seriously as an artist. As soon as that question formed itself it was superseded by a second and more demanding one: do I take myself seriously as an artist?
For the last few days I have been mulling this over and trying to avoid the serious truth that I should admit – I probably take myself less seriously as an artist than other people do. And herein lies a useful realisation. What if other people: peers, colleagues, curators, administrators, take me seriously as an artist, and I do not take myself seriously as an artist? A series of specific and non-specific possibilities repeat though my mind – none of them particularly pleasant – missed opportunities, misunderstandings, disappointments and frustrations.
So this year I am going to start taking myself more seriously as an artist. I imagine that it will take the year (at least) for me to work out how to do it. To avoid time-wasting I will start putting things in to practice as I go. One thing that I can initiated immediately is making (re-instating) time for reflection, which where this blog comes in.
Another thing is to be more active in seeking out opportunities for my practice. And by this I mean both opportunities that already exist as well as making suggestions for new opportunities.
Last week I received two phone calls (both on my old-fashioned land-line) inviting me to participate in new things. The first was a call from one of the management selection team with the Uppsala Artists’ Club. She/they would like me to stand for election to the management committee at the next AGM. It is very flattering to be asked after only having been a member for one year. I accepted their invitation after thinking it over for a day or so. The club is going through big changes with the upcoming move from the building where it has been for many years to a fully re-designed and refurbished location only a few meters away – literally the other side of the a small courtyard. The move is being seen as an opportunity to re-think how the club does things for its members as well as for its public, being asked to join the committee at this time seems very exciting. Committee members are responsible for a different aspect of the club, I have been asked to ’pair-up’ with another artist to oversee the public and educational programmes. As I already work with arts education this probably seemed like something I would jump at, however it was what almost put me off it altogether. Much as I enjoy working with children I really miss more mature conversations, events and projects. It has been too long since I was a guest lecture at an art-school! I talked through my concern with the woman who called me and said that I was most interested in working with the public programme. The artist that she/they suggested that I pair up with is apparently passionate about working with children so it should not be a problem if I concentrate more on the talks, events, and hopefully even some workshops for adult audiences.
The second phone call was from a teacher who had been at one of the Creative Saturday sessions that I run as part of my job as arts education officer with the council. I remember that she came with her daughter and stayed a long time. As the session quietened down and her daughter was engrossed in making her collage we had time to chat. We spoke about all kinds of things including our ways of ’teaching’ creative subjects – she is a music teacher. She and a colleague are putting together an application to run a ’Creative School’ project next spring. These projects support cross curricular learning through the arts, the model is well established, and they are funded by the education department via regional authorities. It is something that other artists have told me about as a good way of working in schools as an artist. Based on our conversation that was interspersed with making sure everyone had sufficient glue-sticks, a good selection of paper and old magazine, and appropriate scissors, she thinks that I would be an ideal artist for the ’mathematical patterns’ project that they are proposing. I guess that seeing me in action with the children, including her own, played a part too! And she had looked at my website, so I cannot say that she had not done her homework. Again I initially hesitated, even suggesting another “more experienced” artist. Thankfully she was persistent and reassuring, and I decided to accept her invitation. I really hope that their proposal is successful and that we get to work together.
It was a real boost to my confidence to speak with those two entusiastic, intelligent and professional woman, and to hear that they wanted me involved in projects that mean a lot to them. I owe it to them, to the club and school they represent, and not least to myself, to do the very best that I can and to take myself as they obviously do – seriously.
I enjoy making art that is visually pleasing, accessible, playful, occassionally even a bit cheeky . And I want to keep it all this … but seriously.