This was an incredibly powerful lesson for me. I wrote and wrote and read and read, and I finally had an epiphany. I identified two of the loudest voices on my Committee - the Art Critic and the Charity Lady - and took a close look at Resentment.
The Art Critic, is a snarky snotting arty bitch. She’s gorgeous in a haughty cold way, always wears stunning designer clothes and elegant jewelry. She communicates mostly through asides and rolls of her eyes, and is constantly dishing gossip and criticism. Nothing is Art unless she declares it so. This voice tells me that I shouldn’t even bother to pretend to be an artist: “You haven’t been to an accredited and well respected art school; you haven’t formally studied under anyone worthy of the term Artist; I’m not actually convinced that art quilts or work with fiber are really Art any way; and you haven’t been in a juried art show, much less a gallery. Who do you think you are?!” This voice makes me feel like a poser.
The Charity Lady, is practical, generous, and righteous. She wears shapeless cotton pants, blouses of pale cotton prints, cardigan sweaters that are just a little too small, and sensible shoes. She doesn’t think there’s value in making anything that is not useful in the home, either for oneself or for friends and family (“placemats and pot holders are always nice, dear”). She makes at least five charity quilts each month. She’s always talking about them, always telling me how many she’s made “so far this year”, and never fails to tell me exactly how and where I can donate what I make. She’s incredibly productive and uses all of her scraps... This voice makes me feel guilty.
The more I wrote and thought about these voices, the more I realized that I was talking to the Shadow side of each of these characters/archetypes. I wrote down all the better qualities of each one and came to an understanding of them as whole beings and have a little compassion for them now. However, I don't want them in my studio - ever! The Art Critic and Charity Lady are not welcome.
Then I started thinking about the quilters I most admire and the ones that started me on my current track - the women of Gee’s Bend. When I first encountered their work, I was stunned by the strong graphics, asymmetrical construction, and their use of color. Each quilt expressed so much confidence, so little artifice. I’ve been to a couple of their workshops in Sisters, and visited them in Alabama this Spring, where even after such a short acquaintance, they greeted me as if I was one of their own! When they lead a workshop, the women, usually five or six of them, come into the room singing spirituals, clapping their hands, praising Jesus and Lord for the great day and the opportunity to share their work. Very upbeat, absolutely joyful. Then they say a little blessing or prayer, raise their heads and clap, exclaim “Let’s get busy”, and disperse themselves around the room to offer help. Amazing. They are so full of joy, it’s absolutely contagious. These are the voices I want to welcome me into my studio each day. I don’t share their love of Jesus or The Lord, but I do want to bask in that generous joyful spirit they bring with them.
So the Art Critic and Charity Lady will stay in the hall and the Women of Gee’s Bend will join me in my studio.
One morning during the Holidays, I found myself saying to myself, “Would it kill him to put a dish away? Could he just once show me that he gives a shit about... without being asked or reminded?” I think this is pretty common husband stuff, but I was so full of resentment in that moment. As I thought more about it, I asked myself what color Resentment is. For me it’s a dull brownish lavender/purple. I carried that color in my mind through the day and thought about how powerful Resentment has been in my life, keeping me from my studio, causing me all kinds of grief while I was working, and making me blame others for stress I felt.
I decided to make a small resentment quilt. I found a horrible print in my stash, one that absolutely fit my purpose, then picked solids that repeated its colors. Horrible combination and just right. I pieced them to form a square about 14” x 14”, slashed it, stitched it together, slashed it again, and stitched it together once more, all the while thinking about resentment. Then I embroidered over the top - french knots and seed stitches. Poking and scratching at the surface of Resentment. I sat with this project evening after evening while watching TV, all the while thinking about Resentment and how it’s worked in my life. My husband was amused and we actually had some pretty good conversations about it. I snaked ribbon and string across the diagonal dimension of the piece to represent how Resentment creeps in and works a dark purpose in me. I added some beads to emphasize the shape. It's almost done, just needs binding. I am working on Resentment.
As a result of this meditation, I realized that all my resentments have been the result of me not being clear about my needs or requirements. I was and am responsible for all of it. I need a different strategy with my husband, so I can get into the studio without feeling pissed off about the state of the house or yard. It wasn’t my boss’s fault, or my mother’s, or anybody else’s for the resentment I’ve felt. I see very clearly now that I need to be on the watch for how and when I let Resentment creep into my life. I need to stand up to what I want and be clear about it, to myself and others.
And now neither Resentment, the Art Critic, or the Charity Lady are welcome in my studio.