As you know if you read my blog with any regularity, I am currently in my 49th year, and the anticipation of turning 50 in 11 months is causing me to do a lot of soul-searching.
It interests me to recollect that while my identity today and for the last 17 years has been totally involved in my art, this was not so for a long time during my life. When I was growing up, I loved to draw. But somewhere along the line, I lost my identity as an artist. I took art classes here and there throughout my 20s, but life's responsibilities (particularly financial ones) pushed my creativity to the fringes of my existence, where it languished.
Things got particularly bleak by 1991, when I was 29. I was working full time as a secretary and hadn't done any drawing in years. I had totally lost myself and felt confused and depressed. Then one morning in 1993, the sun came up, the light shone on my path, and suddenly everything made sense. One step at a time, I strode toward my destiny as an artist. I earned a bachelor's degree, I earned a master's degree, I set up a studio and an art-making schedule, and I began to show and sell my work. It was like that gap between being a little girl and playing with my art supplies every day, and being a professional artist working in my studio, had never happened.
But it did happen, and in a way, I'm glad. It was painful to feel so lost for so long, but that fallow period made me more compassionate toward my students, especially my female students. I teach young women in high school or college who know deep down that they want to become artists, but they are afraid to commit to such an unstable career and are tempted to follow their families' urgings to major in something they don't care as much about but that promises a solid living. I teach busy mothers who are frustrated that their art-making has had to take a back seat to family commitments (and often, full-time jobs in addition). And I teach retired women who look back with pride on their lives devoted to their families, communities, and workplaces, but who wonder how to find their inner artist selves which have been denied over the decades of giving to others.
I understand the soul-searching that all of these age groups are going through. But I know that if I can figure it out, so can they.
I've come across a number of portraits that my husband has taken of me over the years, which reveal how literally wrapped up in painting my life has been since I found myself in 1993.
Me at age 5 (taken by my Grandpa, the other portrait photographer in my life):
Me at age 35, finally an artist again after 30 years:
Me at age 42, 7 years later:
Me at age 49, 7 years later (taken last week):