My father told me that if you do what you love, the money will follow. Perhaps I rebelled at the thought because money was not my goal or my idea of happiness. I saw too many with money and hearts grown cold and indifferent.
In South America, surrounded by 9 foot fences topped with barbed wire, or with bars on the windows and doors of their homes, the rich would guard themselves while poor children with swollen bellies ran barefoot and in rags, or naked, outside gated communities and schools. I saw this from the time I was four until I left Venezuela at nine. It made an indelible impression. From bus windows I saw the old and weary eating from scraps in tin cans burning in the heat, children without a hope and no opportunity for an education.
This, I learned, was the state of many in the world outside of our middle class havens in the US, where even there, in our poorest communities, children went to bed hungry … now more than ever. If money was the answer, then why so much suffering while a few lived in luxury?
Of course, my father was much deeper than his words. He simply understood that money was a tool that made dreams possible. As time went by, though, the demands of life weighed upon him and he was, like so many, pressed into the service of money. I saw what this master did to gentle souls like his. Too many broken lives are made in the path of this, what should be no more than utilitarian.
Even so, it’s hard to understand why I refrained much of the time from my practice in art, a practice that gives me joy. Did I expect perfection and feel unworthy? I procrastinated and excused my delays. I stubbornly refused, at times, to paint even though drawn, often finding things to do, no matter how mundane, or useless, to divert and exhaust my energies. Painting from my heart is a desire for truth, to understand, to discover and this has its own rewards. I understand now that it is the process that gives me joy.
Since this realization, the practice comes easier … freed from expectations. This is a difficult thing to explain to most people; and it’s been an understanding hard won for me. Art is an expression of beauty. It comes from appreciation of things outside our selves, universal truths. We see and know. We show our appreciation, our love, through action. That action takes as many forms as there are souls.
Being a woman, as women are poorly represented in galleries and museums, I understood early that it would be a battle, most likely lost, to seek recognition and make a living at art. As a consequence, the battle raged inside as I took part-time wages for support of my love, while I raised two children.
More women artists than not have been left in obscurity by the decision-makers, the ones who decide “what is art.” Money and power working hand in hand. In fact, by this very act, words have played a role in the perversion of truth in practice of visual arts. The percentage of artists represented in museums who are women is in the single digits. How can this be if these institutions represented the variety and depth of artistic practice and appreciation truly? As we evolve, perhaps that day will come when substance will not be sacrificed to maintain the status quo and money will hold no power over people’s souls.