I have wanted to be an artist since as long as I can remember. Well, at least until after my phase of wanting to be a nun ended. That desire was snuffed out when I discovered boys. Then, I began to worry incessantly that I would “get the calling”. According to the nuns in my Catholic grade school, if I got “the calling”, there was nothing I could do. I had to accept or else! I would be unhappy for the rest of my life. Every night, I would pray, “Please God, do not call me to be a nun.” Luckily, God listened. I did not get the calling and became an artist instead.
Through my child and young adulthood, I was embarrassed by my artwork and afraid that people would think it was bad. I could not bear to be in the same room while it was on display and someone was looking at it. God forbid the person looking at it made no comment at all. I immediately would think, “They hate it. I suck.”
When I was 15, I was accepted into the Governor’s School for the Arts (a summer scholarship program for artistic Pennsylvania sophomores and juniors, held for 5 weeks at Bucknell University). This was my first time away from home; I was incredibly homesick and absolutely convinced that my being there was a huge mistake soon to be discovered. On one of our first nights, we visual arts students laid out our portfolios for students from other disciplines to see. I was mortified and could barely sit next to my work. Another student (and now a well-known Philadelphia artist and muralist), Paul Santoleri, sat near me. I admired the way he looked everyone in the eye as they approached and asked their opinion. If only I had his confidence! His talent has taken him far in the art world, but probably more valuable to his success, is his confidence. Confidence is the key. I realized I had none that night and it took me until late into my thirties to acquire it.
My next bout with a lack of self-confidence came when I was again awarded a scholarship. This time it was to attend Yale University’s Summer School of Art and Music during the summer of my junior year in college. The best fine art students from universities across the country were chosen. Again, my being there had to be a mistake! I was sure of it.
We each had our own individual open studio spaces in a large barn-like building. Whenever I saw any one of our instructors approaching to critique my work, I conveniently had to use the bathroom or clean my brushes. I spent the whole summer hiding.
The program ended with a special critique by a visiting New York artist. I hung my work on the exhibition wall. I had completed a series of tiny (4 x 6″) landscape and interior paintings. When the artist critiqued my work, she said, “I feel like your work is so small because your voice is really small; that you don’t have the confidence to go big.” Boy did she hit the nail on the head!
(As a side note, I was especially glad not to get “the calling” that summer. I met a fellow artist, Michael Cavanaugh, and I fell head over heels in love! Our first kiss happened one night while we were out “beaver hunting”. Seriously, we were down by a river watching actual beavers swim past us as we made-out on the bank.)
I don’t like to use this blog to promote my own work – that is definitely not its intention. But I am having my first solo exhibition and I want the world to know. Thankfully, confidence is no longer an issue. I know that not everyone is going to like it. And that is okay. People are different and people have different opinions and like different things. But I like the work and I am proud of it. The days spent creating this body of work were some of my happiest of the past year. And that really is all that matters.
My show is entitled “A Walk in the Wissahickon” and features paintings and mixed media pieces inspired by the wondrous Wissahickon. It is on display at the Fairmount Park Welcome Center from now until February 29th. I am having an artist reception on Friday, January 20th from 5:30 t0 8pm. All are welcome. It is also my birthday so come help me celebrate.