I have always painted in series. When one subject or idea strikes the proverbial gold, I keep digging. But not in some organized, focused way. I flit from this to that. Some series have lasted years, others hours, and I tend not to focus on just one series at a time. ...
“Sometimes I need
only to stand
wherever I am
to be blessed.”
― Mary Oliver, Evidence: Poems
I like painting at weddings. I like performing. I like mixing paint and spreading it on a surface with a knife, and I like what doing it so often has done to my ego– all but annihilated it. When I’ve got a job to do, I don’t really have much time to worry about whether I’m all that good at it or not.
Painting without traveling an hour to get there, including my friends and family in the painting, using my own gallery as the background, sharing what I do nearly every weekend with my community, that felt different. My ego noticed.
Last Friday, I hosted Nashville songwriter Scott Southworth at the gallery for our monthly Gallery After Hours series, and I fretted about it for over a month. Scott is an amazing performer I met at my husband’s work conference. I won’t say what kind of conference it was, but I will say it isn’t one where you’d expect to meet a songwriter. That he could come to the coast for a concert was a stroke of very good fortune.
I fretted for a thousand different reasons– was the gallery big enough to host such a talented singer? Were the venue and the performer an aesthetic match or would people be confused? Would people even come? Should I even do a live painting or was that silly? Where would he set up, outside? Inside? Under a tent?
I tend to spiral in direct proportion to how much something matters to me. Turns out, this mattered. My worries about the event joined forces with worries about the gallery in general that had been brewing– how can I sustain it? Will it grow? What about the slow months? The concert/live painting was the fresh air I needed– not only a break from numbers and spreadsheets, but a reminder that not everything need be directed towards that end, that some of the very best parts of a business, of a life, are what can’t be measured, marked, or filtered.
Here’s what happened:
1. Scott is an even better performer than I’d thought from watching him on youtube. Not only is his voice captivating, but he’s a natural performer. He interacted with the crowd (there was a crowd!) effortlessly. Even people from the restaurant across the street were enthralled. (We put him inside facing outside. The best of both worlds).
2. Sharing live painting with my local community felt less like work and more like connection. I paint at weddings in New Orleans so often that I forget that a lot of people aren’t all that familiar (or burned out) on the concept. Instead of commuting an hour away lugging my rolling cart through crowds of French Quarter tourists, I got to paint on my own turf, with the gallery as my backdrop. And all of that is truly lagniappe compared to the very best part.
3. My ninety-five year old grandmother, who has never seen me paint live, was able to travel all the way from Lafayette, Louisiana with my Uncle and Aunt (who ended up being the dancing stars of the painting). I’m not sure what your grandmother is like, but the very concept of what one is has been distorted for me. Mine is an incarnation of kindness, and I’m still not sure I can fathom that others aren’t also. My Shirley sat next to me the entire night, genuinely marveling at almost every stroke, every once in a while telling me how she’s been around artists her whole life (she’s the sister of my beloved Aunt Catherine, and her father, brother, and son were/are all artists.) To be near her, is to feel loved and important.
Would this even be my blog without some grand takeaway?
Here’s the biggest take away, and I’m writing it down so that I’ll remember. I’m a firm believer that you shouldn’t pick art for your home that matches the sofa. I believe instead in magic. When you pick art you love and connect with, it miraculously goes with whatever decor you have. Of this I am certain. Maybe classic, country twang isn’t what you immediately think to pair with an art gallery. But, Lord, did they go together. I’m not as much of a storyteller as Scott, but I like to think that’s some of what we have in common. But more than that, I think what I want with the gallery, what I’m trying to work into a mission statement (eventually), is something about authenticity. That’s one of the reasons Scott was such a good fit, why he brought so much life to the space. I grew up on a golf course in suburbia, and I don’t own any cowboy boots, but the art doesn’t have to match the sofa when it’s sincere.
The next time I find myself full of worry and doubt, I’m going to remember that it usually is just my brain’s way of telling me I care about something, that it matters to me. And what matters usually isn’t making perfect matches or cultivating perfect experiences. What usually matters is finding connection– through art, through music, through grandmothers who think you hung the moon.
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