Monday, January 18, 2016

Mutability



When I was fourteen my family moved from small town Montana, where I had been something of an odd duck, to New Mexico. We stopped to spend some time with my grandmother in Wyoming before heading south to New Mexico. While in Wyoming I took advantage of the fashion powerhouse that is Gillette. I am kidding, sort of. While there I did hit up a couple of "fashion" stores in an attempt to change my appearance. I bought a baby doll star shirt, it was the 90s folks. Some baggy 90s style jeans, and some Sketchers sneakers. I had a vision of the person I would be in New Mexico.

I imagined myself as a girl who had lots of friends, who did not have dog food shoved into her locker by the boys, only to open it and have them laugh and bark. I imagined myself to be popular and not the weird girl. Identity is a powerful force for anyone, but it is never more powerful than during those formative years.

Needless to say my efforts failed. I hung out with the popular crowd that first day of school. They were very nice and included me, but even though my clothes matched them, nothing else did. I felt like an outsider. We had nothing in common, and that was about the end of it. Well, that is not fair---many of those people were kind to me for many years, but it was more of an acquaintance situation. We just had different paths and it was clear from day one. Eventually I did find a group of outcasts that accepted me as the awkward girl that I am.

I changed my look to fit my creative inclinations, which were taking shape at that point in time. I started thrifting and wearing unique ensembles that made me feel good. I felt changed. I felt as though I was finally "me." Then I changed my appearance again and again and I have lost track at this point. I have gone though so many phases in my style. The truth was that I had always been myself, of course. Yes, those phases did reflect an internal shift, but the person I was at my core remained the same. Even now the way that I physically present myself adapts with mood, time of year, the art that I am making, the books I am reading. They all influence the constant changes that are happening in my life.

All of those superficial changes merely reflected subtle shifts in my identity, like ripples on a pond. I think, as a visual artist, I am inclined to let any changes or ideas manifest physically, but those are only small clues about my identity as an individual. Surely I am not breaking any new ground with this line of thought, but identity has been on my mind a lot lately. The big questions of, "Who am I?" and "What do I want from life?" are always on my mind, but lately it has been more than just a quiet interna nagging. 

Last night I was reading a book, In the Making, and the author talked about the artist's identity and cultivating a creative identity. I found it a little unsettling to think about cultivating an identity, but really isn't that what we are all doing on social media, our jobs, our friendships, etc. The value of cultivating an identity as an artist can mean connecting with certain galleries, patrons, art groups, etc. The idea of identity, of course, extends far beyond what you wear or how you look.

To be continued...


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