Public art: Anxiety, joy and a vicious beheading Creativity

Who knew this public art scheme of mine would be such a lesson in letting go. My vision of myself as the happy go lucky whimsical artist was completely blown to smithereens within a couple of hours. I had originally planned to bring them to a new place close to a body of water for several weekends in a row. The first day I brought them to the breakwater just after sunrise and set them up close to the cafe. I was a touch concerned about the precarious position of the seated maiden but talked myself into being OK with it and left. I had thought it would be cool to go back and spy on them throughout the day – watch people’s reactions to something novel on their usual walk.

My first visit was at about 1pm and I walked the breakwater a bit then strategically positioned myself to watch the traffic. Several people stopped and looked and a couple of people took pictures. THEN three little boys (guestimate 5,7,9 ish) started jumping all around them. There were two “thank you for not touching” signs located quite close by and the parents were close so at first I was cool. Then one of them did a mock kick as if he was kicking the mermaid off the cliff she was sketchily perched on. My heart jumped into my throat and I felt a wash of intense anxiety through my whole body. As the kids jumped all around and over them getting all touchy touchy I silently cursed the parents in my head for not intervening but I stayed put. This is part of the risk of creating public art I tell myself. The final straw was when one of the kids started to play with the precariously seated mermaid and it started to tip. It would have definitely been the end of it for her if she fell – its was like a 15 ft drop onto rock. I ran over and reseated her then backed away and left the area. Just breathe- I told myself – this is part of the process of letting go. I now understand why most public art is made of metal.

A few hours later after stressing out about the precariously perched mermaid I decided to relocate them to Ross Bay into that giant overturned tree root. She nestled well into a natural throne created by the seaworn roots, nobody’s dog or kid could accidentally knock her off there. Plus I like the thought of them in a place I visit almost every day.

They were there for about a week and were visited many times by friends and family. They brought all the joy I had hoped. People on their walks taking selfies with them and calling their friends over. One day I went to visit them and someone had placed some extra flowers in the crown- oh my heart! Then one morning I went down and didn’t immediately see them from afar (my vision sucks so that’s not too weird). As I got closer I could see that indeed the seated one was gone. I arrruind permaidsived at the scene of what was clearly a purposeful vicious beheading. I didn’t quite start crying but I was pretty close. Someone had dethroned the seated one and then ripped off both their heads. The heads were nowhere to be found which sucked because they took the longest to make. Sighing, and feeling my eternal optimism about humankind shake a bit. I walked over to borrow my dad’s truck to bring their headless corpses back home.

Wow, so letting go. A colleague of mine who has bought several pieces of jewelry from me commented one day that she doesn’t know how I let go of the stuff i’ve made, that she would want to keep it all. My response is that I am happy to see my friends wear things i’ve created and i’m OK with letting these little pieces of myself go (especially when they have good homes adorning people I care about). Clearly my brain didn’t get that memo initially with regard to my driftwood pieces. Maybe this part of being an actual artist (which I have never considered myself) – maybe part of the process is being OK with your creations being criticized or ruined. Maybe I need to have a thick enough skin that I can tolerate these things. Putting yourself out there is risky. I am a people pleaser by nature so when I get indications that people are not pleased with me I find it devastating. Perhaps the lesson is no matter what, maintain the drive to create, which is internal, and not be too fussed about the outcome and the external. Let’s see if I can roll with that.mermaid sign

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  1. I always used to chuckle in meetings where the talk was about outcomes and measuring outcomes even. “There won’t be nothing you can measure anymore”. I’d be thinking.

    Philosophy aside when detachment was mentioned in a different sort of meeting I always wondered why would I want to detach from what I love.

    Bottom line is it sucks when these things happen. But if it makes a good story you are half way healed.

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