Wednesday, September 05, 2007

my eye is bleeding

I had a dream last night. It was noteworthy, first of all, because it was the first time in ages I've had a dream where I wasn't at school in my pyjamas. Secondly, it was an almost-rational dream, very rare for me. In it I had reunited with the first person (I have a hard time calling him a man because we were so young at the time) with whom I ever had a significant relationship. But something in the dream wasn't right; there were no arguments and fireworks because we were both on our best behaviour, pussyfooting around anything contentious ... until the final scene. In this scene we were moving some paintings, which seemed to clutter every surface and lean against every wall, and he happened across this small abstract. I remember every word he said: "Jesus, Andrea, this is a million times better than all those pigs and shit you do." As he said it he slammed the lid on this beloved ceramic Stilton cheese jar I got from Harrod's many years ago and some dust flew up into my face, causing my eye to start bleeding. There was no injury to it, but the blood was pouring out and wouldn't stop. But still I wouldn't say anything about how his remark made me feel, maybe because I knew there was a grain of truth in it. (There was always a grain of truth in what he said, and his criticism of me created the highest levels of anxiety and therefore despair, inane chitty-chat and serious partying I've ever experienced.) I'm guessing 'pigs and shit' is a reference, in dream-ese, to everything I did that was not what he considered 'serious art.' Anyway, my eye kept bleeding and I woke up.

I couldn't go back to sleep after that because of all the layers of symbolism needing microscopic examination (who, me?). In the dream there was the clutter of paintings everywhere, the stuffing down of my feelings/opinion, the fact that it was my eye that was bleeding, plus the fact that I couldn't make it stop. Maybe if I'd voiced an opinion (which is something I don't usually have trouble with:) it would have stopped? I'm pretty sure that planting this almost-forgotten object of my affection as the mouthpiece of my dream was a cheap ploy to get me to pay attention to the message.

Eventually it occurred to me that attempting to forge a career in the arts means you are constantly facing obstacles of the artistic integrity variety. Earlier this week I had an email exchange with a respected local arts writer. I had gone to him seeking some advice and he had basically lambasted me for using who he considered to be an unethical dealer to try and sell my work. In a strange dichotomy of business strategy and moral high ground, that very same day his monthly editorial came flying through my mail slot. In this article he advises artists to create art for the consumer (i.e. 'sell out') in order to survive. He has a lot of good points, and I agree with much of what he says, but I found it fascinating to observe him giving with one hand and taking away with the other. On further reflection, it occurs to me that his opinions simply mirror the dilemma all artists, musicians, writers and other creatives face on a daily basis. I sure do, from choosing a colour (should I choose 'consumer-friendly' yellow or 'serious' brown?) to closing a deal (do I sell it at gallery prices or cut him a deal because he's a long-time friend?).

I have no answers and I'll keep asking, though I suspect I will always have a hard time knowing when to speak up and when to just let my eye keep bleeding.

stone lithograph from a long time ago -- sometime in the early '80s

14 Comments:

Blogger HMBT said...

You know bleeding as an act, is the body's way of flushing toxins and posions from an open wound, to protect the body from infection and further damage.
Just a thought.
I read his article...and I too agree with marketing...to the masses, ack...well as much as I can stomach, it has to be something I want to do in order to do it well. I like commissions and seek them out, and I have t-shirts and cards and coffee mugs and hand made magnets...all available (ain't no one buying but hey, I made them available) I also think that there is a whole lotta ego going on with this human...and that seems to get in his own way (he admitted as much in the article)...so he's a grain of salt guy. I mean if approached on the right day, in the right phase of the moon, he may have even been helpful...to you, or any other artist...but get him on an off time and you have to suffer the ego and the expert opinion. Ahhh, how I love experts on a bad day...so I call them grain of salt people. *shrugs* Whatever. I like the dream...the bleeding eye thing is going to stay with me today...I can just freaking tell. *grins*

5/9/07 11:53 AM  
Blogger Heather said...

When I started writing poetry, someone once pointed out to me that there was blood in almost every one of my poems. It didn't show up often in my dreams though.

I think this is something all artists wrestle with - when to let it bleed and when to put a band-aid on.

5/9/07 12:38 PM  
Blogger dinahmow said...

Heather and Heather are right.As will be most others in this thread.
Anyone who spins the fibre of the mind has this same struggle.I think the anxt is an inextricable part of the creative fabric/process.Funny, but critics don't usually have this!

5/9/07 1:40 PM  
Blogger Alda said...

Fascinating. Both the dream and the analysis. I'm a sucker for those things, and have a serious penchant for the latter.

I love your new work, but I also like these two you've posted here. A lot.

5/9/07 5:32 PM  
Anonymous Kaya said...

Hi Andrea, interesting dream and neat piece of writing! Congratulations on your upcoming show, Kevin and I will try to come! Could the dream be anxiety-related? Art is such a personal thing and showing it to people who then comment on it is a hard part of the process. Be brave. And can I paint you with bleeding eyes? Great image!

5/9/07 7:42 PM  
Blogger Cynthia said...

Good for you for seeking out his opinion, because it is just that - his opinion. The more information you have at your disposal, hopefully the better choices you can make for yourself.

You know what's right for you when you make those choices. They may not be right down the road, but they're right when you make them.

I was just having a dis/similar discussion with my 9 year old daughter. She seems so sure of herself and how she wants her life to turn out. I've read stories she's written at school about what kind of mother she'll be and what she'll do with her daughter. I told her a secret, that I'm not sure I've shared with many others. But, I'll share it with you too... I have regrets in life of things I haven't done, or didn't do because I was paralyzed with indecision or just to darn scared to not stray from the status quo.

What daughter wants to hear her mother say that?

I'm now doing something I want to do and it's not easy and I don't particularly like to be stretched financially. Basically, I've come to the conclusion that there is no one right way to be a successful artist. There are so many routes and it's just a matter of trying different things until you find your path.

My advice to her was to try to go into adulthood with no regrets. Try things, if they don't work, change course and try something else. Don't let anyone make you feel bad about yourself and your choices! It gives your power away.

okay, off my soap box - i've been plagued by nightmares myself the past month. The kind that wake me up and take forever to fall back asleep.

5/9/07 7:54 PM  
Blogger kj said...

gee, i'm thinking about my eye bleeding. i don't see a good reason for it. i can;t think of a good reason to allow toxins or toxic people to push toxic thoughts into your precious creation of art. that includes oneself... :)

just before a show, anxiety opens up space. how about filling it with something other than this guy and that eye?

best of luck, my friend.

5/9/07 7:58 PM  
Blogger andrea said...

HMBT (Heather 1): I like your perspective about bleeding being a process that flushes out toxins. More symbolism! (And I hope that bleeding eye doesn't keep you awake tonight. :)

Heather 2: I seem to have a whole first aid kit full of band-aids so I always feel oddly exposed when I let it bleed.

Di: Fibre of the mind/creative fabric: brilliant. I can tell who's a poet in this room.

Alda: You shouldn't have said that. Before you know it I'll be boring you to tears (rather than blood) with dreams for you to analyse.

Kaya: It would be great if you and Kevin come! And I think you're bang on target about the anxiety. As for a bleeding eye painting, how cool would that be! The minute I read that I could see an image of a painting of yours.

Cynthia: your comment should be a post in its own right. I love what you told your daughter, but you are clearly role modelling something quite different now, even though you struggle. (And every time you have one of those economic struggles with yourself it's just like looking in a mirror.) My own parents always took the safest route, without fail, so I've had to struggle against that kind of imprinted thinking all my life. It can be exhausting sometimes, can't it?

KJ: "This guy and that eye" -- you're writing poetry again! (How did I get so many poets in my comments box today?) Tomorrow I fill the space with a lot of frenetic activity which is probably not a solution either. It's a roller coaster ride.

5/9/07 9:40 PM  
Blogger Ilva said...

I'm having a lot of uneasy dreams right now so I found this post fascinating Andrea. Thanks for being so honest (well as honest one can be/ wants to be on a blog) when you write!

5/9/07 11:43 PM  
Blogger nadine said...

Your post today has made up for all those weeks we were missing you. It is so very personal, and at the same time so very familiar.

6/9/07 7:20 AM  
Blogger homo escapeons said...

You had a Stigmata-tism!

Freud would have no doubt conjured up some cocaine induced penis envy thingamabob interpretation, but I'm gonna go with Cynthia's answer.
There may be a formulaic path to success but there isn't a right or wrong way to explore personal expression.

No regrets. To thine ownself be true.
How is that for some Pratt-ical advice.

6/9/07 9:33 AM  
Blogger ValGalArt said...

wow! i have these dreams occasionaly where i am faced with my past and it is weird and uncomfortable but a poke with a sharp stick or something ouch! we have a difficult job, tho people don't know, they think it's all happiness and sunshine but it's a lonely job often where we are faced with ourselves and our thoughts for hours and hours on end. You are on the right path Andrea!

6/9/07 10:04 AM  
Blogger andrea said...

Ilva: Thanks, and bare-arsed honesty is hard to come by when blogging, isn't it? I try my best to not let the public element of it influence me because it can be such a censor.

Nadine: Thank you. I do get a bit anxious when I do a highly personal post so they're necessarily few and far between.

HE: there's always a penis element isn't there? :)

Val: What amazes me about this kind of dream is how amazingly THERE your past can suddenly be. But if it comes with cool symbolism and important messages then I'm all for it.

7/9/07 11:42 AM  
Blogger Toni said...

Believe in yourself. Do what feels right for you and not everyone else. Ask for guidance through your heart and the universe not your head. Allow the guides to come to you.

7/9/07 11:58 AM  

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