A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 284: Between Introversion and Exhibitionism

between the desire to communicate and the desire to hide

One of the greatest conundrums of being an artist is… Sorry, I just wrote the word “conundrum” and got lost in how cool that sounds to say out loud, it’s so musical! Try it a sec…

Okay, where was I? Oh, yeah…

One of the greatest conundrums of being an artist is the bizarre combination of intense introversion and shameless exhibitionism. That is, the tension between the desire to communicate and the desire to hide. But don’t take my word for it, here is D.W. Winnicott, English Paediatrician and Phsychoanalyst:

“Artists are people driven by the tension between the desire to communicate and the desire to hide.”

Wish I’d said that… Anyway, a truer statement has not been made about artists and how so much art is created.

Recently I worked on a piece to be submitted to a show in a downtown pub here in Ottawa called the Atomic Rooster. It was their annual Cock Show (as in roosters – roosters!) Last week I attended the vernissage at the pub and it was fun to see all that artwork together. It was great to see my artwork up on the wall. If you didn’t get a chance to see the work I submitted when I posted it to this blog, here it is again (the quote is by Muhammad Ali):

I Have Seen the Light

Now – Did you notice that I worked to get an artwork up in public and that I just posted a photo of the artwork so that you and anyone else looking at this blog could see it? I just gave you an example of the kind of exhibitionism I’m talking about. Maybe not shameless but exhibitionism nonetheless. I exhibited that artwork freely, publicly, and even advertised the fact that I did so.

Maybe it is a bit shameless…

But here’s the kicker: I could hardly look at my own artwork up on the wall of the Atomic Rooster. I was proud of it being up there (and that it had sold!) yet embarrassed by it at the same time. Part of me was feeling like my ridiculous contribution had no right to be up there with all those other awesome creations. And part of me felt like crowing (I didn’t). That tension behind the desire to communicate and the desire to hide was a palpable one for me that evening.

Winnicott is totally correct about artists. What we create comes from a strange place where seemingly opposite things collide. Maybe that’s a secret to the power of art. Maybe that is a way to identify good art from bad. Or maybe it is just a good thing to acknowledge, to realize that as an artist you are going to live in that tension.

When I set out to do the third of my Creative Spirits pieces, I pulled that part of his quote out to give heart to the artwork. I wanted to convey that dichotomy of an explosion of creativity intended to be viewed publicly by an artist who just wants to crawl under a rock and hide.

And I realized these artworks I’ve dubbed Creative Spirits were, to me, a simple way to express some of those realities of being an artist and making art. Those quotes I had put on this blog last week were reaching places in my heart and helping me feel a part of a greater community. I decided to explore that further.

Stay tuned…

between the desire to communicate and the desire to hide

 

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