Monday Mood: The Trouble of Reflecting Ourselves in Our Art

Updated: Apr 20

I’m going to kind of bare my soul in this blog, but it’s something that I’ve really been thinking a lot about and I wanted to share my thoughts on, on the off chance that someone would resonate with it. I recently went through a traumatic experience in that my grandmother passed away, and such is life but I spent every day of the last two and a half weeks of her life sitting in the hospital with her. So the trauma lied more in the experience of watching life leave someone I cared so much about’s body more so than the actual death. I spent hours sitting in a hospital room, sometimes by myself in complete silence, sometimes with a family member forcing idle conversation. I don’t want to go too far into the details of it because obviously it’s very morbid but also because I want to share that experience in a different way, one that’s more meaningful to me. What I’d like to talk about today is more so what I did to reflect on my experiences and how that’s been affecting me lately, almost totally separately from the actual events that transpired.

Like many creatives, when confronted with this recent trauma in my life I secluded myself a bit and tried to express what I’d seen and what I was feeling through art. I had a lot on my mind, I was processing a lot, I was pushing a lot away because I didn’t want to face it, and it was all cultivating in a series of four paintings. Three paintings were all based on a single event in my many trips to the hospital and the final was an overall reflection of the experiences. It was a brilliant escape and I wasn’t surprised by this because art has always been an escape for me but I was surprised by my drive. I think subconsciously I recognized how much I needed an escape and that these paintings were just that so I became hyper fixated on finishing them, one after another. It was a sad, miserable time and I think that the paintings reflect that, and I thank these paintings because they were a tremendous processing tool for me. Death isn’t an easy thing and it’s something that in 24 years of life I’m fortunate enough to have an extremely limited exposure to. I hadn’t been through many things like this and, perhaps even more challenging, I hadn’t coped with many things like this. So to effortlessly fall into the solace of my own creative process I count myself lucky. Even luckier, I think these are some of the best paintings I’ve done in my life.

That’s the trouble I’m facing right now. I’d recently been taking new strides in my work and I was happy with the new direction I was headed, but that all came to a halt with these four works. They’re not mind blowingly different than anything I’ve ever done, in fact they’re quite similar to a series I did about a year ago, but they’re much more raw; they’re much more real. The essence and emotion behind my four newest works is so present that my other work almost feels meaningless. I know it’s not (at least I hope it’s not), but I’m struggling to get back to a casual creative mindset right now. When I was working on these four, I needed to be painting, each painting was the next step in my processing of a monumental loss. While I was extremely fortunate to have this outlet in the moments immediately following these events, now that I’m farther removed I’m questioning my entire creative process. How do I get back to a casual creative mindset? How do I find substance in work that’s less heavy than the works I’ve just created? Questions that I’m finding really challenging to answer, and that I find are bringing up even more challenging questions. Is my art only valuable if it’s a reflection of some massive loss or trauma? Will my work only thrive at the worst moments in my life?

I understand the extremes of some of these questions but it’s a true conundrum for me right now. I processed so many things in these paintings, they helped me move on, but now I’m afraid to move on because I feel as though my art won’t be as successful, and that feels so selfish and stupid to me. I guess it’s a problem of deep self reflection in art because we tend to dig the deepest when we’re at our lowest, but if that’s when we’re making our best work then it can be scary to leave that place in a totally different way. I feel like a lot of the time when I write these self reflective blogs I come to a much more clear conclusion that I can share with you but for this one I have nothing and I apologize for that. But, that being said, I felt as though I needed to share this because I’m sure a lot of artists out there are or have been in a similar place. I have no idea what’s to come next from my work or how I’m even going to go about creating it. I know that I just primed a bunch of canvas and I’m going to try to clear my mind and see what happens. But otherwise, I’m still processing a lot. However, this blog has been highly therapeutic, albeit depressing, and there will definitely be more to come. I feel bad that I’ve alluded to these four paintings so much but I haven’t shared them at all aside from a few Instagram stories that like 20 people watched, but I’m just not ready to share the depths of my recent experiences yet. I will be at some point, some point soon, and I hope that I can use this platform to not only share my experiences but maybe bring peace or comfort to someone with similar ones.