As a full-time artist, I hear a lot about the importance of "self-promotion", "putting yourself out there", and "getting noticed". And as I've been doing this art gig full-time for some years now, it's occurring to me that it's a really easy thing to start believing that success is measured by how much attention I get. That sounds really arrogant. Let me explain what I mean.
A few months ago, I was asked to have my artwork displayed at the roof-top bar of the AC Hotel in downtown Asheville in August. This is a real honor, as this hotel is truly amazing. Honestly, going to the art opening and reception, I will be so out of my league. But there's something really intriguing about "schmoozing" with the elite. If you do it enough, you begin to believe you are part of "the" crowd. I remember when I was an "emerging" artist, I'd look at more accomplished artists and see what they were doing to promote their work and my head would swim. "How do they get all this attention? What do you have to do to get that?" are questions that continually ran around in my head.
…”self-promotion" is different than "art-promotion".
One is toxic and the other in not.
In the last couple days, I've been doing a lot of planning for this upcoming art opening at the AC (which is August 15th by the way) and it occurred to me that this is a fine thing to do, and it's necessary for an artist to promote their artwork (if you want it to sell). But "self-promotion" is different than "art-promotion". One is toxic and the other in not. I really do want people to value and enjoy my artwork. That feels awesome, and I do seek that. But having what I do valued and validated can NOT be confused with having my person valued and validated. If "I" am seeking value and validation with the attention "I" get, then I become really ugly. Everything becomes about self-promotion, and whatever attention I get will never be enough. Not really. And because of that, I'd always be looking for more and bigger and better ways of self-promotion. The bigger the event, the more attention I garner for my work, the more valuable I'll feel as a person.
I've decided to repudiate all that. What if value is not found in doing the big things that get all the attention, but in doing little things well…by adding beauty to the mundane chores of life? When I look out at a local mountainside, I see beauty everywhere: in wildflowers that will be wilted next week, in small pebbles with pink crystals in them that maybe no one will ever (EVER) notice again, in the random cardinal flying overhead, in the sound of the breeze through the leaves. Beauty in nature completely permeates the mundane. My faith tells me I'm created in the image of God, and if God infused even the mundane with beauty, then maybe that's how I reflect that Image. Maybe as a creator myself, maybe THAT'S the "biggest" thing I can do to express who and what I really am. This means that maybe by adding beauty to the smallest of things: to washing the dishes for my wife, to smiling at the person in front of me at the grocery store, to letting someone cut in front of me on the freeway, to playing with my grandchildren, to doing things no one will notice or care much about...maybe THOSE small things are really the biggest, most satisfying things that "real" life is all about.
So I'll got to this art opening at the AC Hotel, and I'm sure it'll be a lot of fun. But I'm there to promote my art, not myself. Now excuse me. I'm going to do the dishes. :)