The only sounds you could hear in the studio was the soft creaking of the press and someone grinding away at an old image on their litho stone. My instructor (also my advisor) stopped his rounds and leaned over my lithograph, fresh off the press. “Your technical proficiency is impressive,” he said.
He himself was a talented printmaker. But as an instructor, he was quite reserved so all of us in the art program would collect each word like precious jewels. I felt myself warmed by his observation. Still he stood over my print. And then looking up at me with a curious expression, he added, “But you don’t have anything to say.”
I nodded. It didn’t even occur to me to be hurt or insulted. It was just an observation. And he would know, wouldn’t he?
It didn’t occur to me to dispute his statement. I took it as I assumed he intended — a matter of fact. Over the course of 20 years, I would live out his pronouncement. His voice becoming the one in my head, saying, “I’m a good craftsman. I just don’t have anything to say.”
It’s why I pursued a a professional career in graphic design instead of enrolling in the graduate program at the Art Institute. At least my technical abilities would be put to good use, in service to other people’s ideas or causes or movements… people with something to say.
Have you had an experience like this? A defining moment in which you realized that some belief you had about who you are was actually borrowed from someone else? Perhaps then you’ve also experienced the thrill that comes from shedding it, like a heavy coat that you suddenly discovered you don’t have to wear anymore.
© Ria Sharon