Artist’s Life 101: I would be nothing if not for all my failures

I have been quite grateful for all the artworld rejections I’ve ever gotten for the past week. ​

On November 1, I got an email saying: “We really like your work. We were wondering if we may suggest screening AND SO I SAID piece, we think it would go better with the overall flow of our program.” I submitted KILLER JANE, which is 13 minutes, to this festival – the other movie is 5-1/2 minutes.​


If you participate in the art world in more than one medium long enough, you will find yourself in the same sort of situation in more than one medium. I can recall exactly how upset I was the first time I submitted two sculptures to a competition and my favorite was passed over while the other won me a prize. That experience did not make any less awful the night my scene partner and I gave a staged reading of my first two-person monologue and right afterwards the artistic director of the venue said to the audience: “I think this should be a solo performance and (pointing out another actress who was in the audience) [she] should do it.” They had to scrape me off the floor that night.​

And then there’s the more than once of we-love-your-work-but-we-haven’t-made-our-final-decision-yet; and you wind up not getting selected. It takes years and years and years of rejections to recognize semi-finalist or honorable mention as currency.​

So with all the rejections, disappointments and in my face ego battering under my belt, I laughed and told myself: “Don’t get too excited about maybe getting into this festival – you know the drill.”​

I was going to write an essay about it however it turned out. I have been trying to get into art venues in Montreal for 20 years in three of my mediums. And I wish I could be there when Burnt Experimental Video Art and Film Festival screens AND SO I SAID.​


Step away from the canvas



Still, THE BLUE LADY, Storyboard-Version One

Last night, my husband and I had an argument over my latest VOICE video. The clip of the long shot has a vibrating halo that I can probably mostly remedy in Final Cut. I know how to fix the problem with lighting and my husband thinks I should reshoot the scene. That’s not going to happen – the scene was improvised not scripted, the energy in the scene was good, it is what it is and now it’s over. (For me, the project was over when I figured out how to better light my new studio set up and I’m tempted to move on without fixing the clip!)

I was taught 1) that the very most important thing for an artist to learn is that a project is finished when it’s finished, not when it’s perfect; and 2) that one masterpiece or even several do not a body of work make; and 3) that it is all about body of work.

I had this driven home to me after I had accomplished a difficult carving project on my first piece of hardwood (walnut). As I basked in my exhaustion and self-satisfaction, my mentor said: “Good. Now go and do your REAL work.”

The big picture is not made up of discrete projects. The big picture is made up of completed successful projects, completed unsuccessful projects, a masterpiece or two, outright failures, abandoned projects and, MOST IMPORTANTLY, the knowledge and depth of understanding gained along one’s path of creation from each project.

That is not my philosophy. That is what really happens in the real world of living and working as artists. If you don’t believe me, peek into your own studio.

What’s underneath the surface between my husband’s and my disagreement are our different ways of big-picturing. My husband works on one big project at a time and that keeps him focused. I can’t focus on any one thing without considering how it relates to everything else I do.

But stepping away from the canvas to get a better look is stepping away from the canvas to get a better look.

Now, go and do your real work.


Touching reality vs. Creating metaphor

kabuki geisha

Still, Kabuki Geisha (2012)

I have felt so strange lately that I thought I might getting dementia. But I think I feel strange because I’m touching reality instead of merely creating metaphors. I am living on the edge of my life without worrying about falling off. I recognize that this is the edge because I have been here before – but only during psychosis. Art made while psychotic doesn’t count in my rule book because it lacks the commitment and engagement of conscious intent.

I know I have made some good work before now – I am a realist and I also have no need to deny the past. But I never thought my mind would make it to the place of dancing fearlessly on the edge. This is marvelous and I am grateful.

I owe. I owe