This is going to be a festive post. I’m writing about depression, naked people on bikes, and career uncertainty. Hooray for you five of tens of readers and cue the sad sitcom music, we are gonna have a special episode today!
There are a lot of things I’ve been trying that haven’t been working when it comes to work and relationships. I feel my work isn’t connecting with people. Sure, maybe it’s pretty, but does it have value? Am I able to take people on a ride, help them feel or confront a fear or a question they may have inside, or inspire or… whatever? I’ve been sitting in this headspace for quite some time. Related, I have become much less forthcoming about anything personal I may have on my mind, barring a very select few people, and that might relate I think.
Before I go on, let me tell you why I’m relating this now. I have a theory, backed up by listening to people tell their stories, that any experience or thought any one of us may have is not unique, meaning no matter what we experience, there’s someone out there that can relate to it, understand and empathize, and in some cases, interpret and help those who are in the midst of their pain, fear, trauma, help… not heal, but show where the paths may lay in finding healing, or the way, or however you want to see it. There may be multiple different ways in finding what we are looking for too that can give us… whatever it is we are looking for or need. We don’t live in a one size fits all world.
I discovered two things at a very young age, I want to say around 8-9 years old. First, I was diagnosed with severe acute depression. Second I could get people to understand me through drawing and writing. I am at my core defined by always wanting and needing connection, because I feel very disconnected all the time, because for me that’s what depression does. I -really- do not like to talk about this, not because I fear the stigma (I am pretty sure I’m already seen as a bit weird, but whatever I can’t control what people think). It’s more when I do, people don’t understand what it means, or how to fix it. Many people assume depression is just feeling sad all the time, but that’s not really true, not for me. How I explain it… depression is a liar. It’s this ghost that’s halfway a part of you that shades your experiences, causing you to not feel at all, or when you do, feel anxiety and pain. As a child this resulted in me being extremely isolated. Most of my memories around that time were of playing alone in the woods, or watching other kids play because I didn’t know how to join them. There were other mitigating circumstances that aided me being apart from others, but the results were I wasn’t able to develop those crucial relationships then, and that resulted as me having difficulties in doing the same as an adult.
But this isn’t a sad story, and that’s the main reason why I don’t like to talk about this. I am, because of or in spite of, my depressed experiences incredibly self reliant. I’m very comfortable (maybe too comfortable) in my own company. I have learned a long time ago that I can’t let the lack of relationships stop me from doing what I want, and that can and has resulted in me having to be very creative in solving problems. I am able to empathize with people, and I understand the value of sharing stories to help heal, because here’s the thing. Other people feel this way, or fear to feel this way. Fear to be alone, or abandoned, and what might happen if those things happen.
That comes back to “The Work”. My art stuff. On the other side of the depression coin is copious amounts of anger. I’m not the kind of person to take out my anger on people, I don’t yell or get violent, and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be described that way. The anger is there though, I’m angry that people feel that fear is safer than connection, that I went through and still go through being misunderstood, dismissed, abandoned. That people use others for selfish gain without consequence, and especially, that anyone should dismiss the value of what they are because of their appearance or background. All this comes from that 8 yr old me, and all the evolutions I’ve faced since. What I want is for people to connect, to find the power that we all have within ourselves to face the things that hold us back because or in spite of the pain and fear we might feel. That’s a thing I consider a universal, whether we want to face it or not.
That’s not the current trend in art though. My work comes from an emotional place ultimately, and the trends today are more conceptual. The art that seems to do the best locally is based on whimsy, or pop culture. I don’t begrudge that, I too enjoy that kind of work, but that’s not the kind of things I want to say… or rather, those methods are not ones I connect with to use. So, here’s my problem, the one I’ve been sitting with for many-many months… What do I do now? What do I need to change to make my work of value?
I make art to communicate. I may be socially weird on a personal level, but the art I can use to speak through. The visual arts is a universal language everyone can understand. I could write pages to explain something, but I can communicate it visually in an instant. I also enjoy the multiple interpretations, because I think there’s always more than one way of looking at things. I don’t do it so I can have it sit in my house to mull over. When I make a painting or an illustration. I want it to be seen, to go away, to live a life a part from me. Messages in a bottle to the world, I find a special joy in that.
And here’s where we come full circle. I am not succeeding. My personal work is failing to to find value, and I say that because I have all this stuff and it’s not going anywhere. Part of that is my fault. The acute depression thing doesn’t go away. It’s like a pair of old socks I can’t take off. The things I do to ease it, which is being around others, being of use, and finding stuff to do I find interesting/amusing/stimulating I haven’t been doing much of since I’ve begun freelancing. It’s funny (not ha-ha funny), all these people I see posting suicide hotlines or ‘you can call me if you want to talk’ generically on social media… I know they mean well, but that shit rarely works because nobody wants to talk about their depression shit to a stranger or acquaintance. ‘Hi we don’t really know each other and rarely talk, let me dump my soul on your ass NOW FIX ME’… nobody wants to do that, and honestly the people who are asking don’t (I find) have time for the kind of relationship the depressed person might need, which is a ongoing one. Depression is a liar, and one of the lies it tells is to self isolate, to deal with shit on your own. The fix isn’t to connect, not to have the friend be an armchair therapist, but just to connect. Hell, I don’t want to talk about shit that can’t be changed or fixed, I want to talk about the things that fuel the fires in our brains. Life is about the adventure, the living, the doing, and finding ways to make things better and more amazing for everyone… or it is for me anyway. So, I’m sitting here after a few days of interesting experiences wondering how can I keep working at connecting, and what should I change about my work to do that?
I don’t have entirely an answer yet. I know I can’t change my fundamental self, and I have to continue on the path I’ve laid out. I’ve talked a bit previously about portraiture, and I can’t turn away from that, and I don’t want to. I am thinking about how I can change the language, so to speak. Which brings me to thoughts from the World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR) last night.
Prior to yesterday, I’ve been having conversations and witnessing people react to… things regarding human sexuality and the human body. Kinda one of the things I tackle in my work. I’d say generally, the world over the past couple of decades has become more prudish, and especially so in the last couple of years. Sure, I have friends who are comfortable with and proponents of human sexuality, promote body positive messages, and enjoy nude art and conversations about sexuality. However especially with younger folk but not limited to, from the trends I’ve been reading about as well as my personal experiences people are just… well, prudish. I’ve been painting nudes for around a year, and I’m having issue finding display opportunities. Most galleries want to be family friendly, and even though my work hasn’t been sexual lately, just nudity is too much for these places.
This is coupled with what I observed on the WNBR last night. Because I designed the poster/t-shirt this year they were kind enough to stick me in a pedicab (T-shirt design one and design two you can buy here, all proceeds go to supporting the WNBR, and the shirts will only be available until June 17th). I got to roll around the city like a queen with hundreds of nude or nearly nude people. BTW, I was wearing less clothes than normal, but wearing clothes… because I know you were wondering. The mix of reactions were, I’d say most were cheering us on, some because they were all for what we were doing or because of the shock of seeing naked bodies. Some saw it as a purely sexual exhibitionist thing, and many, more than I would have guessed but in the minority, refused to look up. I saw frowns and stone faced people not at all amused at the spectacle riding past them. My quick review of the whole experience was the ride was quite fun, but I thought it could have been better organized. They were ambiguous about the route online, which I understood. It was to throw off people not taking part, not the cops who are aware of the WNBR every year (I waved to many on the route). Many of the riders were confused as to where we were going to end up, which turned out to be a park along the river. There was no after party, which may have been due to a lack of funds, a lack of available space or organizers, or because some people want to treat it like a hookup gig, and last year there was lots of people in the neighborhood being creepers outside. I can see the pain in the ass level… but because of the lack of an official after party (or unofficial as far as I’m aware) there was no post-bonding experience, which lots of people seemed to need after doing such a daring experience. You put yourself out there, do a thing that could get you arrested… you kinda need to post-process that and people weren’t given a space or a chance to really do that. Plus my pedicab driver was confused as to what to do with me after, because nobody told him I would need a ride back. I didn’t have my phone or wallet on me like I normally did so I would have been in a pickle if he didn’t take me back to my car. I dunno, it was fun, but the afterwards was kinda weird. I had hoped to hang out and get to know some of the people I had met on the ride and that was an opportunity missed.
Anyway, back to my long ass post. If you’ve read this far, gold star for you. People will say not to compromise, that I should do what I want and create what I want and all that… and I agree, but what good is that if nobody sees the work? Or worse, if nobody gets it, or if nobody wants it? About the last bit, yeah I want to make work to ya know… ultimately save the world but without support. it’s like I’m having a conversation with myself. I do that plenty already. Right now I’m like saying ‘hey. what’s up, lets chat’, and all I’m getting back is nothing, or ‘yeah maybe later’, and that’s not enough. That’s not satisfying to me.
So, I have to change. Figure out something else. Put the past work away and hope after I die it doesn’t end up in a landfill and maybe someday when the world has changed someone somewhere will value it enough to hang it and take care of it. Meanwhile… I will keep working but try to push myself in new places, places I don’t know yet. Part of that I think will involve me being more open, which is the point of this post.
I can’t change how people see me, or react to me, or what they might think. I can change what I present, and how I represent. A hilarious (to me) thing is I’ve heard some people describe me as being very open, and I AM SO NOT. Most of my thinkin’ thoughts, ideas, fee-fees I keep to myself. Everyone got their own bullshit, and nobody has time to deal with other people’s is how I figure things are. We all got to drive our own metaphorical busses on the road in which we call life. We can caravan though, share the road for a time. It’s why we are here, to connect. While I am not so graceful with it, and while I let my own bullshit get in my way, I’m trying to do that a bit more.
These posts are just a pit-stop on the ride we call life. Cool thing about all of this is that change is constant. You keep traveling, the scenery and the weather is bound to change. It always does… but sometimes it changes faster and for the better if you pick a new path.
Keep working people.