A SOJOURN WITH SIN
A Recovering Catholic comes face to face with Pride
It’s the first of a new month, and somebody asked me if my “new blog post was up yet?” I informed her that I was finishing it up tonight and that it would be online in a day or two. She asked about the content, and I told her I was writing about the seven deadly sins. “Oh, like the sin of sloth? Slothful like you neglected to write and post something for November? Slothful like you didn't get around to contributing anything in December? Yup, totally slothful.”
She saw the look on my face and started laughing (I’ve never been any good at poker). “Oh please” she said. “I’m amazed you kept that crazy assed schedule up for as long as you did.”
She had a point. Holding down a more than full-time job, nurturing a budding art career, attending gallery openings, producing new art, and trying to keep up with the requirements of domestic life, had finally caught up with me. October really kicked my ass. The extensive hours at work alone, left me with no wick, and a mess of wax, as I burned my proverbial candle at both ends.
I'll be working hard on maintaining a better balance as we move forward into the new year.
It's ironic that I picked the seven deadly sins as my subject matter for November's/December's...now January's post...evidently, failing to consistently post one's blog is the first sin of blog writing. It's right up there with questionable content, and stories that involve the writer's exposed penis...guilty...I may also be guilty of sloth occasionally, but it's not the focus of this month's introspection.
Besides, I can't expose all my failings at once, I'm afraid you'll become bored with me and move on.
I’ve always loved the concept of the “Seven Deadly Sins”…well, not so much the actual sins, I was raised Catholic after all, but the concept of them. On closer inspection, I think what fascinated me was the artistic representations of said “sins”. I’ve seen them depicted as “My Little Ponies”, in fashion spreads on reality television, in classic art, even as Disney princesses. The archetypal embodiment of a single idea has always intrigued me, in fact hindsight reveals it’s a pervasive idea throughout most of my costume design work. I found inspiration everywhere from the gods and goddesses of mythology to the whimsical embodiment of themes in the Nutcracker Suite in Disney’s Fantasia. Why design a “winter outfit” for a play, when instead, you could design something that was the embodiment of winter? This also explains why I was more comfortable designing for musical theatre and dance than I was a straight play. I don’t often fall prey to the deadly seven, for the most part…gluttony and I have had our issues, but I’m working on it…greed, wrath, envy, sloth, lust; not so much. And then there is Pride…I have been winning a lot of stuff lately, getting a lot of attention, receiving a variety of accolades…feeling pretty good about myself…I didn’t think that much about it until I recently submitted artwork for a show and was utterly shocked when I received my rejection letter. What? Do they know who I am? Did they miss my recent meteoric rise to local art world superstardom? Do they not know I was the “Emerging Artist” at a small provincial art festival, for Christ’s sake!
Yikes…maybe it’s time for a little reflection, introspection, and an opportunity to study my relationship with sin. First, a visit to dictionary.com… Pride #1. a high or inordinate opinion of one's own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc. Artistically, I started October on a high…fresh off my “best in show” win at MySLART’s 33September show, I ambled out to Highland, Illinois for the 12th annual Art in the Park, where I picked up my first “best in category” win along with a nice fat prize check. Was I proud? I guess…mostly I was tickled, and like Sally Field at the Oscar’s, I was feeling validated and liked, really, really liked. I blushed when they called my name, and was even more excited when my friend Anne Molasky Ibur was awarded a well deserved “Best in Show”. I was really pleased with her win…I thought her work was better than mine, and the fact that the judges acknowledged that in someway validated my own win and left me free to take pride in it. Oops…there it is…pride. For the ease of discussion, and the necessary self evaluation, I'm going to grade myself. So, in this context I’m gonna give myself a solid “C” for Pride, on the “Sin-o-meter”, with an “A” being “Modest as a Mennonite Farm girl”, and “F” being Donald Trump. I’m hoping with some extra credit I can pull it up to a “B-“.
#2. the state or feeling of being proud. My father called to ask a random question about framing an oil painting…he was hanging out with his best bud and thought he’d just “call my artist son” to get the inside scoop. He’s funny…He’s also proud of me. I know this because he called a couple of weeks ago specifically to tell me “I’m proud of you.” I’ve never doubted my father’s love; there were times when I thought I might lose it, but I underestimated the flexibility of his views and the depth of his heart…it turns out that his love is something I’ve always had. I know lots of people who love their children and/or their parents; it doesn’t mean they’re proud of them. I don’t think I ever really thought about it before in my 54 years. It certainly wasn’t anything I was consciously striving for, but to find out that my Dad is “just as proud as can be son”, left me a little overwhelmed, and moist around the eyes. In all fairness, it’s the time of year where they use the sappy commercials and ads, and I tend to be hyper emotional anyway, but that didn’t stop me from mentally hitting “Control S” and saving that memory away. That kind of pride doesn’t seem like it should be a sin. Then again, I’m not a very good Catholic…more like a “recovering Catholic”. I figure once a priest has slid his hand down your pants to fondle your “offering” you get a free pass on a lot of the little sins…sort of like “your discount will be taken at the register” during the blow out soul sale, aka “judgement day”…damn, I’m digressing again. I refrain from judging my father’s level of pride…partly because it’s not my place to do so, and partly because I can’t imagine that his action, that made me feel so wonderful, should be classified as a sin. Still, the observation was insightful, and like I audited a class, simply to observe, I won’t be expecting a grade for this one.
#3. a becoming or dignified sense of what is due to oneself or one's position or character; self-respect; self-esteem. Okay, so it seems this is the one that’s dragging down my imaginary GPA at SinU…I’m currently whittling away at a big fat “D” in this particular category. I have a friend at work who is also an artist. We’ve talked extensively about putting ourselves “out there”, and “going for it”. I’ve shared with him all the recent struggles and pitfalls as well as the accolades. In October, I participated in the “Collector’s Choice” at the Artist’s Guild. I had donated a piece of my art for the fundraiser, as well as having purchased a ticket for the art raffle. I thought long and hard before I donated, worried that my piece would go unselected, and my confidence and…ok, I’ll say it…my pride would be diminished. As it turns out, my piece was selected first! Pride was not what I was guilty of at that moment…I was shocked, embarrassed, flustered, and on the verge of flatulence… and while undesirable, I’m pretty sure it’s not on the list of seven deadlies. The real issue happened a couple days later at work, when I approached my friend to recap the event. I started out with “So…fundraiser at the Artist’s Guild this weekend…”; before I could go on he said, with out malice, “…and you won, what did you win, I mean what haven't you won lately?”Well, that sucked. It seems I’ve gotten lost somewhere between the desire to update my friend, the necessity of self promotion to sell my work, and what in hindsight appears to be a languorous wallow in the sin of pride…hence the “D”.
Working on it.
#4. pleasure or satisfaction taken in something done by or belonging to oneself or believed to reflect credit upon oneself: civic pride.
My teacher/mentor is wicked creative. She is also generous with her time and talents, so when she asked me if I had any pictures of my dogs that I'd be willing to let her paint for an upcoming pastel contest, I didn't hesitate to offer up images from my obsessive collection of photos of my Boston Terriers. She liked one I had of Otis, just hanging out in his favorite chair, and made plans to start work on the piece. I'd almost forgotten that she planned to paint him, when I walked into the studio several weeks later, and saw the piece in progress. My first thought was "Mine!" I squelched that right away. Deanna is a friend, she asked for something, I gave without question...it would be wrong of me to expect something in return...something like "give that to me." Deanna is also a working artist, that's how she makes her money. I remembered this fact as my brain frantically tried to concoct a plan that would end in my possesion of a new piece of art. I did not want to derail her original intentions...I knew this was for a contest...I couldnt remember if she had plans to sell...was it being donated? Argh! I casually asked a few questions. "Now, where is this going?" "What is this for again?" "Will you be selling the piece after?" As soon as I found out that the piece would indeed be on the market, I rapidly decided to put this whole damn thing on lock down. In a negotiating move, that would have made no one jealous, I suavely said "well then, it's mine...just tell me how much it is and I'll buy it." This is why I never, ever haggle. She said, "well that's wonderful...of course I'll be giving you my student discount." I went home and was trying to explain to Dennis how I had just committed to purchasing a piece of art without knowing the price. I did tell him a discount was involved, as I showed him the picture of my sweet Otis..."Oh yeah, that's ours!" was all he had to say.
I need to clarify, I did not paint this, I'm not even sure that I'm the one who took the original picture, but I am ridiculously proud of this thing. I'm proud that the setting is from my home, in a chair filled with memories and momentos. I'm proud that my dog looks soooo damn cute in the picture...like I can somehow take credit for that. I'm simply obsessed with this picture. I posted images online, on a Boston Terrier board. I made it clear that I was not the artist, and that I simply owned the picture, but the intoxicating level of pride I felt as each "like" was tallied, as each commenter swooned over my posing pup...this is how bad it got: at one point, I went to the gallery where it was hanging so that I could take pictures of it on the gallery wall. Of course, rule obeyer that I am, I first had to explain to the gallery owner, that the item I was photographing was not only a depiction of my very own dog, but that I also owned it. Yup, it was mine, and somehow, inexplicably, it seems to have made me a much more important person...albeit a person bursting at the seams with a toxic level of pride, but still, an amazing god damned person!
So...in keeping with my educational themed metaphor...I bombed on the final, and totally flunked out on this one...obviously. Hopefully there will be another opportunity to retake this "class" in an upcoming semester. Maybe they'll offer a remedial session.
#5. A group of lions I'm totally gonna "ace" this one!
I am not now, nor have I ever been a group of lions.
There may be hope for me yet...