It’s Saturday. The exhibition that Pearls of Wisdom was destined for opened today.
Remember that the delivery deadline for the piece was Wednesday?
Well, it wasn’t finished.
Not even close.
The Queen of Last Minute Panics had really lost her crown this time. And believe me, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. There may even have been some howling, but I’m not saying whether that was me or the Two Bad Dogs.
Friends suggested it was ‘done enough’ but they, bless them, weren’t actually looking at it. Because, let me tell you, it was nowhere near being done enough. It wasn’t just finishing and embellishments to be added but whole major construction sections and so much stitching that by Tuesday morning I was aware that there was no chance of me even finishing the midground section, let alone the whole of the foreground including Miss Surprised and the other close up sea creatures.
So, feeling like a failure and a flake, I emailed the exhibition organiser, my friend Bren Boardman, admitted I’d screwed up and apologised for letting her down.
Two minutes later, my phone rang.
“How would you feel about showing it as a ‘Work in Progress’?” asked Bren. “With your sketchbook and maybe your process plan showing what you’ve done and what’s still to be done?”
Now, normally you can’t imagine doing that – showing something that isn’t finished. And most venues would probably raise eyebrows at the idea as well. It’s just kind of weird.
But in this case, it actually makes sense. The exhibition is at a shop where Bren and other teachers offer workshops, and is designed to show off the work of students who have been taking a series of monthly workshops in exploring your creativity and developing your own artistic voice. So the concept of the process and development of a piece of work is actually very relevant.
So I agreed to show it unfinished – not even close to finished. Because it made sense. And today I went to see the exhibition.
Ever had that dream where you’re standing around at a party and suddenly you realise you’re not wearing any pants?
It was like that.
There was Pearls of Wisdom, larger than life (it really is), partly stitched, with pins holding on a bald Miss Surprised, and hanging awkwardly because it’s not blocked or stretched. And all I could look at were the bits that weren’t done and I wasn’t happy with and needed work. And whenever people went over to it, I wanted to shout, “It’s not done yet! It’ll be better than that! I’ll press it! She won’t really be bald! Honest, it’ll be better, I promise!”
I felt like I was standing around in my underwear and begging people to look at my beautifully made-up eyes and not my saggy bum. But that they couldn’t help being drawn to it and noticing the little hole that needed mending in my underpants as well. And then being mesmerized by the, um, general sagginess of that area… .
Feeling exposed? Yeah, just a bit.
Mike the Goblin was having a field day. “See!” he was gibbering, “Everyone can see you’re a fraud! You shouldn’t have done this! They’ll laugh at you and say you’re rubbish! You should NOT have done this.”
In the end I decided it was best to just not think about it too much. It is what it is, and the exhibition organisers (Bren and the shop) are quite happy with it as work in progress.
To be honest, I’m quite happy with it as work in progress too. Just not so much about having it hanging in public where its – and by extension, my – imperfections can be seen quite so clearly.
But maybe it’s an opportunity to be brave. To prove to Mike that the sky will not fall on my head if the public sees something that I’m not happy with. That I can live through it when people make ignorant comments in my hearing. Maybe even that my work does not equal me.
And it’s an opportunity also to learn some stuff about my process and how it failed me this time around. That’s something I want to talk about in my next post.
Oh, and my saggy bum? You really want to see it as it hangs today? Even though it’s wonky and needs a lot of work? Well, okay if you’re sure then. Here it is: