When I was in college, I took a senior studio art class where we were supposed to make whatever we wanted, and each week we would critique each other’s work. It sounds simple, but it was easily the most emotional and personally challenging course I ever took in my undergrad years.
When there are no parameters, the pressure is high. You have no rules to blame - every decision you make, you have to own. It was terrifying - it felt like the work would be judged so directly as a reflection of who I was inside and I was afraid that trying to make the art would reveal that I was in fact, an uncreative and dull person. There’s nothing quite like pinning your heart and soul up on a wall and asking people to look at it under a microscope.
There were about 15 students, most of whom I didn’t know very well. We spent 4 months together, critiquing each other’s work, and by the end we had spent a lot of time showing the darkest and strangest parts of ourselves. I realized knew very little about the everyday lives of most of my classmates, but I knew a lot about their deeper pain, fears, and struggles. It was a strange way to know someone, but it drove home this idea that making art is sometimes about exposing the parts of ourselves that aren’t always easy.
For me, making art is still like that. I don’t live by a two-week class deadline anymore and nobody really critiques my art to my face, but sometimes it still feels as vulnerable as day one. At the same time, I also feel like my art doesn’t show enough - and that the work is an overly clean and beautified version of who I am. It’s a strange dichotomy of feeling like too much of me is seen but simultaneously not seen enough.