Thursday, August 13, 2009

Identity Crisis

I've been having a very hard time making myself make artwork lately. I've had a hard time making myself do much of anything. It's not a matter of depression, really, or mood. Not in so many words. I'd like to say it's not necessarily laziness either (though you could, in fact, say that.)

I think I've figured it out. I'm having some bizarre artist identity/mid-life crisis. Well, maybe not that bizarre. But certainly disconcerting. It's beginning to really drag me down.

Yesterday I went to the fair with Nich and Laura. I got up in the morning thinking, "Oh, it'll be beautiful and hot out, and it'll be a nice day. I'd like to look nice and be comfortable. I think I'll put on one of my dresses." I have this airy black and white cotton halter top dress that I really like, but haven't gotten much use out of since I bought it to wear to a wedding last year in fall, and it got too cold to wear it again. I figured, I'll look hot and be comfortable at the same time, and I won't be wearing frumpy ripped jeans and whatever t-shirt I've picked up off the floor that smells remotely clean (and the cats haven't dragged into the litter box lately.)

So, i took a nice hot shower, actually bothered to shave (I'm not always so great about this, I'll admit... but when you always wear jeans and t-shirts, you get a bit lazy. And hey, no one's ever called me a girly girl), and *gasp* put on makeup. When I finally was all dressed, I looked pretty good... except that I had major cleavage going on, and I debated whether my makeup was too heavy. You know, I don't do this often, and I feel a bit clueless when it comes to fashion in general. Like, I always get that squirmy high school reject feeling when I get dressed up, like I'm gonna get caught wearing last year's trend and get snickered at, or just dress incredibly inappropriately for whatever occasion I'm attending. Yeah, I'm kind of neurotic, but you kinda get that way when you weren't the popular kid. The confidence has never really been there to begin with.

So I trot downstairs, and Nich whistles, and I feel kind of awkward and wonder if I'm over dressed... and I ask him if I'm showing too much boob for the fair. He hesitates (well, he's a guy; what's too much cleavage?), and then says "Yeah, probably. I mean, it's the state fair. You'd probably want to wear something like that for Oranje (the big art show I have a booth at)."

Devastated, I despair because I have no *really* clean clothes and am not sure what to wear, and I trudge back upstairs and flop down on the bed and burst into tears.

A little overdramatic, I know. But this was what was going thru my screwy, insecure brain:

1. Great, I get to wear ripped mom jeans and an old t-shirt AGAIN. I'm tired of looking like a slob EVERY DAY.
2. I'm so embarrassed. Why the hell did I think that would be an appropriate outfit to wear to the freakin' state fair? (High school all over again - might as well be the naked at school dream).
3. I'm gonna be out in the heat all day wearing jeans. It's gonna be so freakin' hot. How annoying.
4. I am utterly old and uncool.

I go into the bathroom, wash off all the makeup (including the carefully applied peacock blue eyeliner I had painstakingly applied so that it would be bright, but not Mimi from the Drew Carey show overwhelming), and trudge back downstairs in somewhat clean jeans and a crappy thrift store tee with Sharkboy on it. Nich asks if I'm ok, and I say yes and quickly decide I need to go to the store to avoid any further discussion as to why I'm acting like a complete nutbag and my eyes are all red.

Now, what does any of this have to do with my inability to make artwork? It has to do with my self image, and all the stupid labels and ideas floating around in my head constantly telling me what I can and can't do, what I should be doing, and what labels I should and shouldn't fit. My friend Courtney nailed it. Try as I might to be "open minded" and not to live by any set of traditions, I've gone so far out of my way to avoid being any of the labels I hate, that when I fall short of my own expectations, I feel like crap. I am so freakin' good at beating myself up; so much so that it's paralyzing. I don't look the way I wish I looked, I don't live the way I really wish I could live, I'm not an interesting enough person by my own standards, I don't have cool clothes, and I don't make crazy awesome clever art. These are the things I tell myself, and they may sound superficial, but I realize that I've got this idea in my head of what I'd be if I were, I dunno, perfect. Perfect by my standards, I mean. Like, I'd have the courage to shave my head, dye my hair orange, and get 5 facial piercings if I wanted. Or the energy and ambition to make huge, cool installations of art that have no purpose other than that I wanted to make them and show them to people. I want to make things and do things that make me happy, but I get in the way of that. I think "No, that idea is too lame, you can't do that." I think "Real artists wouldn't be making crap like this, they'd be working on some super intelligent and well designed statement about society, or whatever." I think "You are well on your way to mediocrity, and your art will never get you anywhere, though you may make a living drawing pet portraits." And I just cringe and procrastinate and sit on facebook all day. I think about the future, and cringe even more. I'm already married, and eventually I'll be a mom, and then I'll have no free time. I will have just given up on every dream I ever had because I just couldn't cut it. I'll end up like my parents - working some job I hate to pay the bills, and miserable because I never did what I really wanted. But at the same time, I've been living like a broke-ass bachelor for years, and I wonder if I'll ever have money, a house, or any sense of security. I have no idea what I want, and the labels clash like titans in my brain - housewife, artist, mom, hipster, crazy awesome adventurous person, boring middle age life-zombie. (Does any of that make sense?)

I wish I didn't do this to myself. I'm aware of it, and I know better. But I can't shake those stupid little voices in my head that can reduce me to tears or suck all the joy out of creating something. My will is sapped, my inspiration is empty. I need a muse, or a really good shrink.

On a lighter note, I did manage to start a drawing today... I'm going to get back to it before I convince myself that it's stupid, and begin watching videos of cats on youtube.


Antagonist Jason said...

You weren't popular??

Lori Leaumont said...

I certainly didn't think so... I always felt horrible, poor, and awkward. I only knew some of the cheerleaders because one of them went to church with me. But what do I know? I had horrible depression by senior year. My view of the past is probably terribly skewed.

AKA said...

i do the same thing with clothes and cleavage.
it's horrible.
somehow i always forget how different a dress looks on a hanger and when it's on me...and the result is usually tears or throwing hangers....or both.
ceram-a-sisters for life

Lori Leaumont said...

I'm so sad I never made those ceram-a-sisters pins! I'm glad I'm not the only one that has crappy clothes tantrums:D
Can the ceram-a-sisters be a gang? Can we throw up a sign?