The process of putting art out there is always a vulnerable one. This is true for every single piece that an artist shows a friend or posts online, and it’s only more true when unveiling an entire series of paintings. The vulnerability factor isn’t multiplied by the number of paintings in the show: instead, it grows exponentially.
Still, I’ve been exposing my tenderest spots through my art for years, so I thought I would be used to the process by now. Not so much, as it turns out.
Crime Against Nature opens in less than a week and I am petrified.
The terror I feel has to do with what an enormous change in my work this series represents. For the first time ever, I am exhibiting paintings that are not portraits.
What’s more, in the past, my series have been about my identity, but they’ve been about the pieces of me that I’ve had time to process, things like being an artist who’s proud to make her living with her work, being a woman, and being an American.
On the other hand, Crime Against Nature is about my infertility, and that’s a piece of me that is still very raw.
In some ways, I’m processing this new identity as I make and show this work.
For example, through this series, I’ve decided that I don’t so much belong to the community of infertile people, but to a population that society marginalizes because of outdated ideas about gender—a population which includes single moms, stay-at-home dads, professionals who happen to be women, men who like to dress colorfully, polyamorous types, homosexuals, and transgendered people among others.
Instead of being just a straightforward memento of a show, it’s a proper book with a narrative that I wrote, and expressing myself with a book in this way is new and nerve-wracking.
Finally, maybe the most vulnerable aspect of Crime Against Nature is just how much time I’ve put into it. I may have only been painting since the beginning of 2012, but I’ve been thinking about the project as well as researching and writing the book for years. What if I’ve done all this work and it’s lame?
In the end though, it’s that investment of time that saves me—that and all of the other commitments I’ve made through the show. There’s too much momentum to stop the exhibition or the book now.
I can be scared if I have to be, but I’ve been doing this long enough to know it’s time to get out of my work’s way and let it do what it will do.
Reception: 17 November, 5 - 9 PM
Open: 18 November - 12 January
Hours: Thursday - Sunday, 12 - 6 PM
3rd floor of Pioneer Place
SW 5th and Yamhill, Portland, Oregon