As my wife, Becca, and I sat down at the brewery in Gunnison, Colo., the college-aged kid who would serve us our lunch asked if we were local or passing through. We were part way home after having picked up some photographs from my latest art show.
Becca told him we were passing back through from Crested Butte, the skit town a half hour north. She told him we’d just rounded up some of my artwork from a show that had ended its run. He turned to me, bright eyed with interest, and said, “So you’re an artist?”
Inwardly, I balked for a split-instant. And then I went for it, “Yes, I am.”
Why is it so difficult to say that? To own it? We’d just come from a successful exhibition, in which several pieces were sold in a beautiful gallery in a beautiful mountain town. A beautiful experience, all in all. And we were on our way home with much less than what I’d taken there at the month’s beginning.
In some ways, it’s my biggest step forward as a showing artist. It was my first (more or less) post-pandemic art show. I’d raised the prices and people paid. And it was the first time I was not showing in a home area gallery. Yet I still tripped over my thoughts when all I was asked to do was acknowledge the obvious with a reasonably confident Yes.
When the guy had walked away to get our drinks, I told Becca that I’d felt uncomfortable with the moment. Knowing me better than anyone, I think she must have noticed. She faintly nodded and said, “It takes practice.”
Yes. It’s an uncomfortable truth for me, and I think for many, to own who we are. I have been practicing with myself and my family, owning these creative, vulnerable aspects of my story. But I hadn’t noticed that that’s as loud as I’d got, only saying it so myself and sons and wife could hear.
I’ve written it, if somewhat at a side angle, indirectly claiming art as a thing in my life, but I don’t really have much practice owning it verbally when looking another human person in the eyes.
So here I practice, if only in writing at this moment, directly taking responsibility and pride in saying, I am an artist. I am an artist. I am an artist. (See Galleries)
When I have a chance to look someone in the eyes and own it again, hopefully I’ll remember this directness of phrasing and stand tall when I say it aloud. It’s a practice.