Saturday, June 4, 2011

Glamour versus Reality

I am guilty....of presenting an illusion of a glamourous life that is seemingly filled with parties, champagne, and new frocks spilling out of my closet. My friend Madamoiselle Poirot, who wrote a very thoughtful post about illusion versus reality, said "it sounds like you do your supermarket shop in an evening gown." The comment made me laugh since that evening I had been pumping gas in an evening gown, but it made me pause and consider how illusion and reality can be part of the same continuum.

As an artist, a writer, a researcher, a wife, a mother and more, I dress according to the role I'm playing on any given day. And while I might be seen in ripped jeans and a t-shirt on my studio days, other days might find me wearing Prada while closeted in a windowless back room of the museum. And then there are those events for which nothing less than an evening gown will do...

And while it might seem like a lot of fun to attend opening parties, press previews and exhibitions, these events are work.  I usually do hours of research beforehand. I arrive prepared with a notebook  and a camera at the ready and then have to deal with where I rank in the hierarchy of journalists and whether I can get an interview.  Plus there is an enormous pressure to look fabulous.. I return home, my feet aching from hours of standing in heels, and have to start writing before I forget the parts that I didn't write down at the event.

What I am trying to say is that the reality is not as glamourous as it seems and it takes a very thick skin to survive with one's self esteem intact!

Beyond the parties, the work of being an artist is mostly a solitary journey. I go to my studio and am alone with my thoughts as I conjur up art pieces that reference the subtext of my life. At times, my studio is my sanctuary, but at other times, when I am blocked, it is the last place I want to go. As joyful as the act of creation is, there is also the judgment that comes with a gallery show. Is it meaningful, important work? Does anyone like it enough to buy it? Does anyone care?

What has become an unexpected pleasure for me is my work at the museum. In spite of the almost Edwardian working conditions, I often get to do research that makes my heart sing.  There was a time after I finished my first masters degree, that I fancied getting a Phd, but all too soon I was caught up in my quest for pretty frocks and a mortgage.  This work has made me realized that I am happiest when I in a stack of books, on a quest for more knowledge or unraveling a mystery. As I get older, I have less patience for the things that don't really matter - like feigning interest in something or someone who really doesn't warrant the time or energy.   That's my reality.

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