How jealousy can be useful
I’m not the jealous type. I work hard and I have been lucky. I make the paintings I want to make and I get paid to do it. I am successful. I don’t have a lot to envy in the careers of other artists, so when I do feel a twinge of jealousy I pay close attention. Instead of getting caught up in coveting or in pretending as though I don’t covet, I go after the thing that is causing me to covet. My jealousy gives me new leads.
I discovered the use of jealousy in April 2006. At the time, I had just opened Mutually Beneficial and, not only had Portland’s primary critic written a full article review of the show for the main page of the Oregonian’s Living Section, but most of the other papers and magazines in town were also talking about the series.
I was showing in an alternative venue, a space that was used only for displaying art but that was technically the lobby of a software company’s offices in Old Town. Despite the fact that the venue was hard to find and relatively unknown, the attention that the series had received filled the space on opening night and for the rest month. All in all, I had nothing to complain about, but still I wasn’t satisfied. It was a vague feeling of discontent, and I remember trying to diagnose myself, wondering if it was the early signs of a post-show depression settling on me.
That same month, I also happened to have work in a group show at the now-defunct Portland Art Center. When a former professor congratulated me on exhibiting at the Art Center and failed to mention my solo show, I was miffed at first and then, after some reflection, grateful. With the help of his casual comment, I was able to track down the source of my nebulous feelings of envy: I wanted to show my work in spaces that had a certain kind of credibility. Though Mutually Beneficial was on display in a nice venue, it wasn’t the same as exhibiting in a dedicated art space.
Ever since that jealousy-inspired realization, I’ve concentrated on finding the right venues for my work and on listening carefully to the green-eyed monster.
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