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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Oh, That Tricky, Tricky Ego...

One thing I struggle with sometimes is comparing myself and where I am in my career with my colleagues.  I imagine this is fairly common within all fields, but I think that perhaps those of us who consider ourselves artists take it maybe a little more personally because we have such close personal ties to our work.  When I read something about one of my contemporaries, maybe someone I went to school with, for instance, and they're having a moment of great success, I'm happy for them (really, I am), but I can't help comparing what I'm doing with what they're doing.  I mean, yes, I feel like I have some amazing things going on right now, but I always feel like I should be doing more, especially in my own jewelry and metalwork. 

Last year at this time, I was working feverishly on my portfolio for my grad school application.  I felt mostly good about my work, and felt like I was moving in the right direction. I only applied to one school, VCU, and it was really the reason Mark and I decided to go ahead and move to Richmond.  When I found out I was third on the list when they realized that they only had the funding to bring two new students into the program, I was disappointed to say the least.  But I decided to reapply in a year, and in the meantime work on my portfolio, pursue my jewelry business, and continue working for my friends at NC Black Co. 

Well, here it is, two months from application time again, and I have so many things going on, I haven't had time to work on my portfolio all year.  I have ideas and sketches for some great pieces, but I haven't made them yet.  And I have to ask myself, why is that?  Why are these other pursuits taking precedent over my portfolio work?  Well, the answer is clear, they're just more important to me right now.  A year ago, I felt like I was moving in the right direction, but this year has presented so many other opportunities, from working on my businesses, CopperTide and CopperDog Studio, teaching in workshop settings (teaching was really the main thing that inspired me to go back to school in the first place), both with NC Black and on my own, plus all my work with NC Black Co. outside of teaching.  I feel like now I'm really moving in the right direction, and it's almost as if breaking from all these pursuits to go back school right now would be counter-productive. 

But I was still torn.

I had a conversation with my friend and teaching partner, Chuck Kennington, about all my feelings on the subject, and he said something that really struck me, "Don't let your ego make the decision for you." 

Yes, I felt defeated when I didn't get into grad school last spring, and there is a part of me that wants to prove that I can.  I want the prestige, and I want the respect of my contemporaries.  I sometimes get the feeling I am looked down upon because I don't yet have my MFA.  But really, what does that matter?  It's just a piece of paper, after all.  The other NC Black teaching team, Andrea Kennington and Les Bryant, are proof that it may not matter all that much.  Andrea has her MFA in Metals from ECU (where I got my BFA) and Les is completely self-taught.  He has taken workshops from masters, but has no degree.  And yet they're doing the same job.  Andrea even told me flat out that having her MFA hasn't opened any doors for her.  You go out there and you open those doors yourself.


So after talking with Chuck and Andrea and Mark of course, and lots of thinking and weighing of options, I've made the decision to put grad school on hold indefinitely.  I'm not totally ruling it out as a future possibility, but it basically comes down to the fact that I just don't need an MFA to do what I'm already doing.  So there's that.

So even though I'm happy with my decision and the way things are progressing in my career, it doesn't mean I don't still feel a twinge of jealousy when I hear that this colleague got into a show that I wasn't accepted to, that one got her own solo exhibition, and this one got published in a major industry magazine.  I'm happy for them, and I respect their work and know that they deserve these things.  But dammit, I want it, too!  So I will just have to turn this little streak of green into inspiration to make time, work harder, and get my work out there, recognized, and respected!

Ready??  Go!!!

1 comment:

  1. I don't know you but you expressed exactly the feelings I had/have. It's nice to know I'm not alone. I'm gonna put your message on my bench so I can read it when I'm in doubt. Thank you!
    (I read your message on Facebook posted by David Huang, a friend/fellow-artist I admire a lot).
    Keep up the good work,
    Linda Savineau