Coming Out of my Fine Art Closet
by Amelia Kanan
Although today’s definition of fine art includes photography and film, I am Baroque old school in terms of believing that fine art is something that takes creativity, thought and physical ability to be successful as opposed to technical skill. Not that film and photography don’t require those things but…there is something to be said about a piece of art work that requires your motor skills and brain to be in synch with one another without any invention from a machine.
I’ve always had a hard time calling myself an “artist”. For a long time, I, naturally, blamed my talented mother (who has drawn, sketched, painted and collaged some of my most favorite pieces). As a child I grew up fascinated with her work, so I tried to copy it. This only led to frustration and for me to feel as if I was not an “artist”. It was like this: If art is what my mom creates and I can’t create what she makes then I must not be able to create art. Thank god I didn’t have to wait too long to realize, in my teens, how large that term “art” was and how all encompassing was the label “artist”.
In high school, I tried all the art classes. Ceramics-nope. Oil Painting-nope. Drawing-defintely not. Thank god for photography, it was truly my saving grace. My photography teacher in High School was probably the only adult to whom my angst ridden teenage self would listen (to this day he negates that and likes to say that I did whatever I wanted). I didn’t just listen though…I hung on his every word. He was tough on me, too. I would proudly come to him with a freshly dried print and sheer excitement and he would say with a scowl, “I hate it.”
“You do?? Why?”
“It’s flat. Not to mention, my eye has no idea where to look, which makes my head ache with pain.” Maybe this is where my desire to hear negative critique comes from…
Truth be told though, he never made me cry (which says a lot). I craved his truth. Even all throughout college, for every project I would rally his voice in my mind and try to critique my own work with his eyes.
That was a long time ago. Today, working at the gallery and College for Creative Studies, I am lucky to be surrounded by incredible talent. True artists. Artists who are much older than me and well established, some who are up and coming, others who are brand new to the scene and some who don’t even know how talented they are. All of these people inspire me in some way.
A few weeks ago, we had a show at the GPAC called “Food for Thought”. Since I was leaving on a trip I had too much on my plate to plan, create, print, matte and frame the photograph I wanted so I decided to opt out. Plus, since I had been rejected from the two previous shows (“I got rejected…again”), I thought it was time I just took a break from submitting. Then, I saw the pieces come in. “Food for Thought”, what do you think when you hear that? Well, I don’t think food, necessarily. It’s a figurative saying. I was shocked to see that not many artists played with that idea. Although lots of quality art came through our doors, I didn’t see much thought behind it. Then, one of our photographers entered a film. She was so insecure, nervous but excited to show us that she stepped out of her comfort zone. The film was great and I was so proud to see my fellow artist stepping out there, taking a risk and submitting something in which she wasn’t totally confident. Isn’t that what art is supposed to be? Raw and insecure?
So…I was inspired. After she left, I sat and thought for a moment. “Food for…thought…” The idea of a piece that incorporated words popped into my brain. Then these phrases just came into my head and I wasn’t relating it to food…However, after I said it, I realized how fitting it was to the idea of food in our culture (the phrases listed at the bottom). I was stoked. I had these abstract watercolor pieces that I had painted but felt were unfinished, yet I had no idea what to add to them.
I rushed home and looked through the paintings and in typically Amelia fashion, didn’t think any of them would suffice so I made another one, using a specific color scheme. Once it was dry, I began to cut, write and assemble. When I finished, I was nervous, embarrassed and began to hate it. “I should have made the cut outs all the same size and I should have used a ruler to make them perfectly straight.” Then, the other voice said, “No, Amelia, it’s a representation of yourself…not perfection.”
The next day, I submitted it to the gallery with maybe one ounce of confidence. The next day, I got a phone call informing me that my piece, “The Process”, actually was chosen. Lesson: Don’t be afraid to break out of your cozy and warm artistic box.
Oh, and P.S. I have a new website…I’m still working on getting my url changed (I’m having major issues that are really confusing to me) so it isn’t totally official yet but…I’m excited about it.