Sunday, February 27, 2011

Bring on the Groupies

A few days ago, my usual daily readership of, oh, about 12 shot up to 500. Chez of Deus Ex Malcontent posted a charming testimonial on Christine Tomaszewski's photography work and personality, and linked to the interview I did with her, and wowza. People clicked. Lots of people.
Shadow thrown by
big spotlight

[awkward silence]

So now I'm feeling tongue-tied.

[more awkward silence]

[throat clearing] So, OK!  Moving along. 

My thanks goes out to Chez, whom I haven't actually met, for bestowing traffic upon Artful Mistakes and good press for his friend Christine. And my thanks goes out to Christine for her gorgeous photographs and thoughtful replies to questions for a blog that she understood would have a readership of 12, meaning, she answered just because, hey, she was interested, willing to chat, and as a favor to me.

Display, fame and audience have been on my mind since the bustle of activity. All that rush of attention and possibilities, it's flattering and thrilling!

It's also induces, for the shy crowd, some stomach-dropping nausea. 

When I heard my little grape had been put on a superhighway vine,  I was far from my computer, and a mild panic set in. There were posts I needed to pull down. All of them, for instance.

I'd adjusted to the exposure of a blog in the first place by knowing how few people followed it. It didn't matter how strange posts were if no one read them, but when all the eyes arrive: yipes!

I calmed myself with simple reality: hey, they'll read about Christine -- who gave a great interview and provided stunning photos -- and then be on their way.

A brief review of analytics backs this up. Folks scanned the article and photos and moved on. 

And so now I'm back to my comfort zone of 12 readers. Phew. 

For a public format, this is crazy think. I'm supposed to want to be famous, for heaven's sake.  It's downright un-American otherwise (let's, for example, all ponder the oddity of reality TV). 

And in some ways, I do want to be famous, but not in a Lady Gaga marketed image way. Or creepy reality TV.

Most people, I think, want to be seen and appreciated for their own unique charms, and I'm no exception. And we all may squirm (to varying degrees) under the examining eye. As Chez began in his comments on Christine, "She'll probably balk at the attention, but..."

We all know the eye can also see all that imperfection leaking out, decidedly uncomfortable.  It's easy to focus more on our mistakes than our successes. But having our successes lauded feels a little strange too.

I noticed the mere prospect of larger exposure felt a bit improper, impolite. Why should I get attention when there are much worthier people and causes on which folks could be spending their time? Women, in particular, are encouraged to deflect any attention from ourselves to someone else.

Pay no attention to that [wo]man behind the curtain.
And so (as a good interviewer and "good" woman), part of me felt more comfortable because at least I remained in the background of Christine's story.

In many ways, that approach is an accurate representation of my historical modus operandi (which may have nothing to do with gender roles; I've no idea). I've spent much of my life learning how to pry information out of other people, listening and asking questions because I am curious about life stories, reasonably compassionate, and a bit of a control freak (history can provide a guide as to what to expect). I've sneaked around hoarding information.

It's probably not a coincidence that my senior thesis in college was entitled "Women and Insanity under the Patriarchal Gaze."

But getting back to attention and art, most successful art points the lens at the artist, or at others, in such a way that the audience clicks into his or her own experience. The audience steps into another viewpoint, a pair of shoes, and sees hows they fit, feels the soft leather and torn blisters. By zeroing in on the emotional world, our humanness, a painting or photograph or story or dance or song gives us understanding on an emotional, not just intellectual level, of the experience of others. 

I continue to find that pretty damn magical. 

Starting this blog was, and continues to be, as I apparently have to endlessly restate to myself and patient readers, about tossing out some of the invisibility, opening up, taking up space, about looking around, finding community, and paying attention. It's about trying new things and exploring, and being a wee bit more accountable. It's about flops and successes and learning. It's about talking about the art and artists that I connect to, which, I realize belatedly, says as much about me as it does about them.

Creativity is necessarily intensely personal. I revel in the nuances and oddities of the artistic process, mine and others, and am obsessed with creative obsessions, mine and others, the whys and whats and hows of creating.

Looking forward, I intend to present more interviews, putting the fantastic people that I know on display and learning from their talent and enthusiasm. The art of others that I stumble into and my reactions to it will be pondered as well. And I will keep doing my own arty magpie struts through here as well, tripping under the eye of readership (be that of 12 or 500 or 6,000,000 or 1).

Bring on the groupies. I'm ready.

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