With the last painting completed for the first solo exhibition that opens in 6 days, yes 6 days, I now begin the process of adding the hanging wire to the series and wrap them for transport.
It has been a wonderful time, a stressful time, and a time of self-evaluation. Completing this last painting has a strong sense of accomplishment, but I am very aware of the fact that I have another solo exhibit 1 week after the first one closes. So my sense of accomplishment is brief as it is overtaken by a tension of being ready for the second show. So I need to tackle a few more paintings during the first showing, and begin design options for an icon commission in Winnipeg.
Not having access to any grant funding, I've had to claw my way to these showings through any available credit that I had. It has been a daily stress. With the first exhibit almost here. I now just need to get through to the end of February and hope that there are a few sales. My art isn't solely about sales, but it helps keep a roof over may family's head and allows me to continue painting.
As an artist, I am a very private person in general. In my iconography, there have only been a few occasions where I publicly spoke on a particular work. So with this first solo showing, I nervously approach the opening. I've received wonderful comments about the series and specific paintings, and best wishes for a successful show. A successful show would help financially, but the artist in me (as any artist - visual or performance) hopes that the 'reviews' are good as it would affirm my transition in the pursuit of my art. I believe in my own success with the totem series, but can't assume that it will be shared by anyone who comes to see it. The pragmatist in me always insists on being ready for all possibilities. But having said that, am I ready for success?
I need to prepare myself to be in front of my art in a public setting, and speak about my transition and the driving force behind my journey with the totems as a non-Aboriginal person. That will be a key point of inquiry at the reception or when meeting a viewer at any point during the exhibition. I know how that connection and interest in totems/carvings (and the vibration of the wood they are carved into) has been part of my life. But it is another thing to try and put it in words 'outside of myself', in a coherent manner. I'm not skilled in 'artsy' speak.
It has been the pattern of my life. I had a 25+ years career in theatre production offices even though my initial goal was to design. I have 35+ years in Iconography even though I am not from the Byzantine Rite and not from a Slavic background. I taught art & drama at the high school level for 5 years even though I did not have a teaching degree. I am now deeply set in my totem paintings as a non-Aboriginal. So I guess it comes as no surprise to anyone that knows me. But through all my endeavours, I have approached each in the same way; giving it my best and with sincerity.
It was a bit of wisdom that one of the greatest mentors of my life, Gordan Adaskin, imparted to me during my studies at the Banff School of Fine Arts.
"When a door presents itself to you, open it. Enter. Even if it is a unexpected direction. Give it your best. If you succeed, rejoice. If you don't, you will know that you gave it your best and you tried. You will have learned something about yourself and you won't have the life long regret or doubt of 'What if I had tried it and not turned it down?'."
It has been the main drive of my life since. It has been a life of many changes and directions. And yes, even though it wasn't a conventional job with a nice pension plan at the end of it, it has seen me through all these years. What will be my legacy? It won't be mine to know. A legacy is a daunting thing to assess and it is in continual evolution. For the longest time, I thought it was my production work in the opera world. But when that ended, I thought it was my icons. And now with my transition into my painting? And what impact did I have on any of my students while teaching! The endless questions and pondering of an artistic mind.