calla trio, photograph
“Nobody can be exactly like me. Even I have trouble doing it.”
– Tallulah Bankhead
I struggle all the time with who I am as an artist. Not only have I done many different types of photography (landscape, figures, still life, floral, etc) but I also have done several types of painting mediums. On the surface, there has been little consistency in my output – lots of different stuff done different ways.
Is there something that runs through all this work that makes it uniquely mine? Is this even possible given that I am not (hopefully) the same person I was 10 or 15 years ago? Is it something that guides me or something that is discovered after the fact? Is such a thread of cohesion even a desirable thing or does it limit us in some way from new creation?
For me part of the excitement of creating art is the opportunity it gives me to do new things, to explore new ideas and new forms of expression. When I start a new project, I am motivated to not approach it as I have in the past. Most (not all) of the time I am hoping to become a different artist than I’ve been before. Without that possibility I would be weighed down by Sisyphus-ian angst.
Of course, after the art has been created and I consider whether I achieved my objective of transcending myself, most of the time I do see something familiar there. I may have put a new spin on things but it’s rare, if ever, that I can’t see myself after all. Contrary to the quote above, I find I have trouble not being exactly, or at least, somewhat, like me.
But while it may not be possible to reinvent our artistic identity completely, the attempt to do so keeps our work alive, so I’ll keep trying to be not exactly like me.