Facing Demons and Self-Portraits

For the past nine months I’ve been gestating an artistic collaboration with the Chamber Music Society of Ohio: an afternoon of me painting in concert with French chamber music, surrounded by an exhibit of my paintings. Wrap it all in a lovely private venue of one of Akron’s lovelier homes and gardens and you see how the project has carried all the anticipation and excitement of any healthy pregnancy.

Until Monday.

Monday, my friend and co-founder of the society called to arrange an appointment with the high-powered venue owner, which I’d anticipated like a final check-up before giving birth. “Yes, Thursday at one will be great,” I agreed. I couldn’t wait to see the place again and get inspiration for what I would paint on site- en plein air. As we were bidding goodbye, Val p.s.’ed, as casually as if commenting on the weather, that Cynthia’s portrait painter from Naples would be at the concert, too. “It will be quite an artistic event” or something like that was the closing comment. I think.

I clicked off my phone and felt an overwhelming surge of intimidation. “Quite an event alright.” Two red flags: artist from Naples and portrait painter. Ugh and ouch. It ruptured an acute inflammation of all the childhood insecurities which lie dormant in my happy life. Dormant but obviously there, waiting for a crack in the psyche to attack. That grinding tidbit of news has changed my disposition as if I were waiting for medical test results for a biopsy.  Having this other artist there feels like rain on my parade, no matter what positive spin I try to turn on it. The joie de vivre of the project has drained out of the balloon. I brace myself for inspection. What if I choke?

This dose of self awareness, in a creative way, is what it takes to paint a self-portrait, which Griffin and I have been doing a bit of this summer to balance out painting en plein air,before we go to France. Looking for the shapes and shadows which make us, us, as well as part of the human family. Yet, how disarming to discover lifelong insecurities in those shadows, no matter how we’ve triumphed. But then again, such things may be the very things which give our eyes a certain light, our eyebrows a particular arch or our mouths their unique turn.

I think I’ll go to the garden and weed. It’s a lovely day, after all.

5 thoughts on “Facing Demons and Self-Portraits

  1. I am, as always, in awe of you and your great ability to delve and understand and then move forward in the best way possible. xoxo

  2. All I can say is that I am sorry and understand that you feel deflated. But another part of me is thinking “Who cares! You are going to Giverny!!!”

  3. Bruce, Inspiring post! I appreciate the honesty, humanity, and humility. I was just at a training today called, “a community of creators” in Boston by Peter Senge and Robert Fritz. You’re post ironically echoed my learning today. Put your creations above the creator (you), and then you will no longer view competition the same way. There is more than one way to do a spectacular portrait. What fun is there in only one way?

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