How do you measure the success of an art show? Maybe it’s how many pieces of artwork you sell, or the number of business cards handed out, or maybe the followers you get from the exposure. I don’t really know, but I sure hope it’s not how many pieces you sell.
For me, it’s conversation. I went out to Commonplace Coffee this morning to pick up my prints. I had some of my photos from Iceland up for the last 15 days of October since there was some kind of mixup with the artist that was supposed to be showing. I asked the manager if I could hang up some of my work and he was kind enough to let me throw something together. I rushed out to get some frames and get images printed and gathered my materials in just a couple days. It was actually a lot of fun to hang my work on the walls. I hadn’t really shown anything to the public like that in more than ten years. Yikes! Saying that feels so weird. I guess I haven’t felt very “artsy” since college. I’ve been focusing more on advertising type images and less on just personal, fun work. I dug up some of my more critical artistic traits that I learned back at RIT. Although I did kind of throw my work up on the walls at the last minute, I found my desire to tell a story by grouping certain images together, and arranging things just so. Physical images are so powerful, and I think I forgot about it.
As I was taking down frames, a couple people stopped and talked to me about the work. They asked where the images were taken, and a little bit about the story behind them. One coffee-lover shared some personal stories about their life. What I felt wasn’t quite butterflies. I wasn’t nervous. But I had some kind of bubbling glow in my heart. A stranger felt like she knew me enough to share these stories because she learned something about me through my work. Cool, right?
When I was very young, I gave away one of my favorite toys to a cousin (or friend, I’m not sure). I didn’t miss it, but my mom did get it back for me, which made me quite upset. Sharing meant more to me than anything else. I wanted to help people. I wanted to make people feel good. I think that’s something that I’ve lost as an adult. Not so much the desire, but the action. I know that it was necessary to learn that I can’t force other people to feel a certain way, and I can hurt myself by trying to give too much. I eventually honed my giving skill to keep myself protected but also be able to share a bit of happiness. But today, I think I might be protecting myself so much because I am afraid to get hurt. There’s always a big price when sensitive people open up, and for me, the price became too high for a poor outcome.
There are few things that give me the buzz that sharing does. Our roofer came by the other day and I offered him a cup of coffee. He said yes, and my soul just burst with happiness. I had the tools to improve someone’s day, and they accepted it. So, when I was able to talk with some people about my photographs, it was a way of sharing my experience with them. I felt like they accepted my invitation to feel the way I did.
To just know that someone sat and, even for just a moment, considered this work, makes it all worth it. I feel seen.
So, all of that is to say, I feel successful today.
Would you like to hear about our adventure in Iceland? I have my notes here and I’m ready to share. This trip filled to the brim with challenges, lessons, adventure, and beauty. I wonder if anyone will accept?