Why Exhibit Art?

Three portraits I’ve made during Humanitou conversations with fantastic people in our community, Manitou Springs, CO, are on exhibit through the end of July in the First Amendment Gallery of the Manitou Art Center.

(Thank you to Layla Redding, Floyd Tunson and Peter Maksimow.)

This work is the first I have exhibited in several years. I’ve not made a point of showing my work in galleries. My journalism background necessarily put my writing and photography in public through newspapers and magazines. My personal work with Humanitou lives online.

But to take the step into a gallery with intention? I had some whys to answer for myself.

Portrait Exhibit at Manitou Art Center | Humanitou Yoga + Creativity

Maybe for some artists, answers to why to exhibit are clear or even irrelevant. It’s possible I overanalyze or am too self-serious with this internal debate. But I am not alone. So … Why exhibit?

Is it about ego? Is it about validation? It costs money … Why spend more to show my work?

I reach hundreds of people a day, near and far, with my work via social media and my website. Why print and hang on a wall in an art gallery? And what is it about exhibiting in a gallery that feels loftier, that jabs at my confidence?

Some answers that get me over the hurdle of why to exhibit are:

We never know where a connection might come from, when and how we might touch someone, inspire them, encourage them, help them, ignite something life-affirming. And, on the flip-side, be inspired ourselves by participating.

Is that arrogant? My self-limiting voice has told me in the past that it is, but that’s not the voice to listen to. We all have that power, and we never know what tiny something can make that impact for another person. It’s not that an artist that sparks emotion and connection is on a higher plane, it’s that the recipient is not on a lower plane.

Why exhibit? Exhibiting is sharing, participating, exchanging, learning. Instead of just receiving from the arts, from artists who have the courage to step from the shadows and experience vulnerability in public, it’s giving to that experience. It’s standing with artists in shared creative experience, energy and understanding.

Through this Humanitou website — even this blog post — I expose myself to rejection and judgement regularly. But I still get to work within my comfort zone.

To step outside and take my work in tangible form into the light, to go be part of art openings and connect with others who take interest in creativity, their own and others’, feels like something a bit bolder for an introvert like me.

To exhibit is to start something, rather than signal the end of a period of work. It connects my virtual world of online expression with the physical world of social experience. There are no veils to hide behind. Each venue fuels the other.

It’s learning. It’s leaping. It’s trusting good things will come if I just take the first steps out into the open, beyond the safety of my solitary processes and home walls.

It’s teaching. My two young sons identify as artists, as makers and entrepreneurs. As potential. Who am I to encourage them with words, but not show them with my own actions?

Humanitou on Exhibit at Manitou Art Center

My sons are proud artists. In this moment, each holds and is captivated by a tiny, green caterpillar they brought to the First Friday art opening at the Manitou Art Center. [Photo by Becca Williams / @connectsdots]

It’s opportunity to lead my boys, to introduce them to what I think is important in life, to not have them growing up questioning their viability as creative beings.

It sets an example of creative self-worth. I hope when they are grown, they will not question themselves and their work so deeply as I have, that they will not see sharing their creativity as an act of boldness.

Exhibiting is removal of self-limiting thoughts and habits. It’s not stopping myself before I start work, as if, otherwise, I could think my way to perfection before I’ve even begun the process.

Exhibiting has entered my view as one piece of how I can show my authentic purpose in life, to live who I am more fully, rooted not in my stories of brokenness but in my abilities to offer the best me I can to myself, my family, and my community.

Why exhibit? Because the mountaintop I want to realize is to live as an open-hearted, compassionate, creative contributor, a soul of honest purpose.

I can’t experience the rainbow and its journey — vulnerabilities and connections, fears and joys — if I don’t start stepping with full intention.