Sunday, April 22, 2018

Photo Contests

Ah, the photography contest.  The terrifying prospect of putting your art into competition.  Art is an incredibly subjective thing, I have entered a lot of juried show where I've been rejected and ya know, it hurts.  It hurts every. single. time.  And then you go to the show and you feel like your piece is as good as others that you see there.  You wonder what was wrong with yours...

Art is a very personal thing.  When you create something, it's frequently a little piece of yourself.  A spark of your creativity. To really fall in love with a particular piece of art and then put it out there for others to judge can be a scary thing.  No one likes rejection.  Not to mention the financial costs involved.  It can cost 35-50 dollars to enter a photo in a contest.  And that's frequently for a digital entry.  For a physical show, you have to prepare a piece for presentation and have it framed and ready to do, if it's rejected, you've just dropped a pretty significant chunk of change for nothing.

But really, art contests are about outside validation.  The need to feel approval for your work.  I really struggle with this one.  I feel, frequently, like I'm not a real artist because it's not what I do for a living.  I teach high school history for a living.  I'm not going to starve if I don't sell a photo, or get hired to do a photo shoot. I really don't make much money off my photography at all.  The tie dyes I sell in the summer frequently fund my photography habit.  But the photography is what gives me fulfillment. I have total impostor syndrome when it comes to my art. I know that my value as an artist is not measured by its popularity on social media, but it is still incredibly frustrating to create a piece I love, put it out there in cyberspace, and have it not make even a ripple in that vast, digital ocean. Sometimes, you just want to feel extraordinary at something.

Recently, I have been a finalist in a few photography competitions.  I have that, "Always a bridesmaid, never a bride" feeling a lot.  Finalist is great, it's a big accomplishment in and of itself, but it's not "Winner."  It feel that deep seeded feeling of inadequacy I've felt since childhood.  I need to put those feelings away and enjoy my art for the sake of it being art.  I do it because I love it.  I tell myself that over and over again, hoping that some day, I'll believe it.

I take solace in the fact that one time, I entered a photo contest, and while I didn't win, I had some art digitally displayed in the Louvre.  So, I guess I don't suck too bad.  Maybe that was my peak.  Who knows.  I will keep trying.


Monday, April 16, 2018

Recovery: Take Two

I remember doing a blog post last year about my was titled "Art Heals."  I still believe that sentiment, art does indeed heal.  I took six weeks off after that surgery.  Six weeks with time alone, to be with my thoughts, to slowly put myself back together.

"Sooner or later all the people and the places that we loved are finished, and the only way to keep them safe is art. That's what art's for. It
rescues everything from time."
-Alan Moore Jerusalem

Recovery 1
About A week after surgery

This time, I was not so lucky.

This was taken shortly after surgery.  I was sore and bruised.  I couldn't dress myself, couldn't bathe myself, couldn't do my hair.  Everything was a challenge.  I went back to work less than a full week after surgery.  Having taken off six weeks last year, I was afraid of depleting my sick days for fear that something would go wrong with me, or my family and I would be without.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I a fiercely independent.  I hate asking for help. I was told a lot growing up that I couldn't do things.  Wasn't smart enough to do things, pretty enough to do things...couldn't do things because I was a girl.  It's because of this that I have a fierce determination to just do stuff myself.  I had to let that go.  I had to let go of my ego and it drove me nuts.  I had to make myself vulnerable, both physically and psychologically.

I had to ask...for help.

My husband has been fantastic.  These past few years have certainly fulfilled the "For better or for worse" parts of our wedding vows.  There have been a lot of struggles.  Struggles with health, of ourselves and our parents.  Struggles with losses of dear friends, former students, and family pets. The realization that we are getting older and so are all of those around us.  The natural passage of time...catching up with us. Things became a bit too real. I am reminded of the song, "All at Once" by the Airborne Toxic Event, "We grow old all at once, and it comes like a the gut, in the back, in the face."  And, indeed it does.  I've felt like my life since 2013 has been a series of unfortunate events. I try not to dwell on it too much, however, because I feel a sense of guilt about it.  I feel guilty because I have friends who have been through so much worse than me. I still have my husband, my parents, my brother.  I have this strange emotional mix of sadness, frustration, anger, and guilt. I am a bag of mixed, confused emotions.

 The main difficulty in the recovery of this surgery was that for weeks...I didn't have my art.  I couldn't do the one thing that made me feel better.  But finally, after six weeks or so...I was able to cheat a bit and get out and take some pictures.

 I ventured to the local cemetery, a walk to get myself out of the house.  Still in my sling. Holding my camera in my left hand and reaching far enough to push the button, I was able to capture a few images.  Some balm for my soul.

I have a morbid fascination with this statue, well all cemetery statues for that matter.  

Time went on and I healed more.  I went to the arboretum at JMU, finally free of my sling. 

Getting up and down was the hardest part, not being able to push up with my right arm and needing to hold my camera in my left.  It felt like I spent hours doing squats, ouch. 

The best photo trip I had during recovery was when I found the house with a yard full of abandoned cars.  I wish I'd been better recovered, I would have spent much longer there, but I wore out from getting up and down. 

And my favorite shot of  my entire recovery period...the goats!

Recovering has been a lot of hard work.  Physical therapy has been an exercise in patience, pain, and humility.  The staff at Sentara Orthopedics and the Physical therapists have been wonderful.  As someone who is nerdy about history (and many other things too) I appreciate a staff that seems to enjoy their jobs.  I like that my main therapist, Ian, gets excited about explaining things.  He even gets props and shows me what's going on in my joints and why I'm feeling the things I'm feeling.  When he gets in the zone and begins explaining things, I don't always understand, and I wonder if that is how my students sometimes feel when I'm explaining history.  I appreciate the energy and enthusiasm. 

The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Recovery 2
14 Weeks Out
The Ugly 

This has been the most prolonged pain and discomfort I've ever experienced in my life, really, honestly.  If I had another uterus.  I'd rather have another hysterectomy. 

Two surgeries in less than a year...and three in less than five years...I'm incredibly out of shape and have gained more weight than I care to admit.  After losing 70's really disheartening to gain weight back.  I'm struggling with how I'm looking right now.  You can read all the body positive books you want, but it's hard to undo forty-three years of programming.  

The Bad

I broke down and cried more than once.  I once had a meltdown sitting in the bathroom, waiting for Bradley to help me take a shower.  I cried a few times at work, at the end of the day.  I closed the door to my classroom and cried just from sheer pain and exhaustion because I didn't want anyone to see. 

I don't sleep well...still.  Things are better out of the sling, but I still roll the wrong way at night and and jarred awake from pain. 

The Good

The kids at school have been cool.  Even offered to help me with things.  

They ask how I'm doing.  

They clapped the other week when I was able to reach up higher on the dry erase board and write something.  Especially after they had to put up with my awful writing on the board with my left hand. 

Speaking of which, I'm amazed how many things I was able to figure out left handed. 
Writing on the board
Typing, one-handed
Putting on my makeup, left handed (only occasionally poking myself in the eye...)

My friends and co-workers have been great.  Thanks for carrying copies and making coffee.

My kid drove us to school for six weeks until I was out of my sling, and never complained about it. 
They also helped cook and do whatever else I asked of them. 

I never finished my bottle of pain killers. Maybe that's part of the stubbornness, but I managed my pain well with mostly  ice and OTC medication. 

I am finally up to the strengthening part of recovery.  Pulling weight and using resistance makes me feel like there is indeed light at the end of this tunnel...just need to make sure it's not a train.

Remember to seize the opportunities and make the most of what you have. Love one another.