Monday, February 19, 2007

Success: May I have the definition, please?

Will you please use the word in a sentence?

"Was the art show a success?"
"Were you successful tonight?"
"Do you feel like it was a success?"

These are the questions people asked me toward the end of the night at Claire de Lune's. I know I must have had a dead-empty-tired look in my eyes. Maybe that's why they asked. But people always ask questions like that when someone holds an event, right? I mean, what's it all about? And I know I answered the question with an awkwardness akin to a teenage girl being asked, "Are you going to prom?" And she says "yes" and hopes that the end of the conversation, because she doesn't want to explain that she is going with a group of friends, because she waited for The One to ask her, and The One is going with someone else. She knows she will have fun, but it's not going to be The Night that everyone makes prom night out to be. Is it going to be a success? Yes, if she doesn't walk around with Sad-Heart because she is with her friends instead of some stupid-lover that doesn't even know she exists, yet.

So here's my answer. If you mean, "did I make a lot of money and sell a lot of art?" Not really. I did sell a few cards and a few matted-not-framed photographs, so my work is now in someone else's home instead of in waiting-to-be-shown storage. That is a success.

But it would be foolish to become an artist for the money. Most artists are even poorer than teachers. That's why we have "real jobs" too.



Did she just say the art show was not a success?

No. I did not say that. Think about this, which is what I didn't get to say last night, but what I know to be true:

The first time I went to Claire de Lune's, maybe one year ago, I noticed the paintings on the walls, found out they were for sale, found out the artist actually sold some of them, and decided I wanted to have an art show there one day.

The only thing I needed was a body of work.

I took my first official painting class in late June 2006. Nine months later, I had a one-woman photography and painting show at Claire de Lune's.

Some people grow a baby in nine months; I made an artist.

So was the night successful? I saw friends I hadn't seen in a long time and we got to reconnect with each other. People from Justin's medical school were there, people from my church were there, people from my neighborhood were there--all my new and old friends in one place at one time because I invited them to join me. Someone said my work was full of life and energy (it was late by then--I was finding her words ironic, but taking them in). People said I have a good eye for photography. People thanked me for having the show and I thanked them for coming. People told me Jareb has an amazing voice, a good tone... I just wish technical difficulties hadn't prevented him from starting to play while my friends were still there (I said he'd play at 6:30, but it was 8 before he started...)

I suppose I could talk about what I wish had gone differently: I wish that despite the technical difficulties with the music I had made an announcement about why the music wasn't starting and thanking everyone for coming while they were still there, instead of just cruising around while a baby did the sound check on the mic. I wish I had taken pictures of my friends there, and Jareb playing in front of my art, and my work up. I wish that I had set my table of cards and art up in a more visible and comfortable shopping location, instead of in front of the stage. People might have felt uncomfortable standing in front of the singer or not have noticed it when they just walked into the shop. I wish that I had more energy and felt more secure so that I could project a happy face at an art show that is really a pretty spectacular success just for existing--just for me existing and then making it happen. I wish my face were not so transparent, every emotion painted onto its canvas with such bold colors. I wish that I weren't so easily stricken by one person's attitude or another person's absence or my wish for more conventional economic success through art not actually coming true. I wish that I had made conventional pricing signs, since even though I had my card posted by each piece with prices and titles written down for each piece, people asked if the art was for sale. I wish that even though I intellectually can explain that my art show was a success I could also feel jubilant about it. Or at least pleased or content. I wish I didn't walk around with this feeling of "ehhh..."

But that's what I have. Major Depressive Disorder is a disease and I've been battling it for just over a year now. My art show was a success. Every day that I do anything good at all, I am a success. I just have to more fully accept this new definition of success, and life on my terms, not the American Gold Standard. And like 32 years of codependency, it's not a habit that changes over night.

I am a success because I am a friend and a wife and I make some pretty things and share them with people. Good enough.

And now I have to go get a job at a restaurant, so that I can continue to be a success who lives in an apartment and doesn't have to even think about whether my art will sell so that I can buy another mocha or a tube of paint.

And when people ask me if I had a successful night after waitressing, my answer will be based on the kindness of customers, the fun I had with co-workers and guests, and however much money I carry home in tips--and the money part of the answer hopefully won't feel like a judgement of my success as a person (or an artist--the way it feels when they ask on nights like last night.)

PS. The show goes on through February, so come see! It's successful. :)

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