"Are you a Pollyanna?"
The person who asked me this is a good friend and respected mentor of mine in the art world whom I visit once a week at a gallery while my daughter is at ballet. When he inquired about my Pollyanna status, I was surprised and felt defensive for a moment b/c I sensed that the question wasn’t a compliment.
It wasn’t intended as a compliment.
For a split second, I had to think about it and then wonder as to why I would feel insulted by the question. I guess that the reason it took me by surprise is that I am a Pollyanna. I just had never thought about it in those terms before.
I ended up saying yes to his question and, after some consideration, eventually reveling in my answer.
Yes, yes, I guess I AM a Pollyanna….and proud of it!
I mean, how many Pollyanna’s are there out there? I’m a Pollyanna if I not only stay at home with my kids, but love staying at home and even love homeschooling? I’m a Pollyanna if I unashamedly express my deep and abiding affection for my husband of 11 years? I’m a Pollyanna if I dress and act modestly? Honestly, I’m not tooting my own horn here b/c I’m fully aware of my many flaws, but why is this such a bad thing? Didn’t Pollyanna win the day in the end by changing an entire town for good?
I was then informed, by this same person, that my art is “too innocent”. “You need to take the innocence out of your art,” I was told.
This was very puzzling to me. What constitutes innocent art and why is innocent art so bad? I’m certainly not suffering for sales. I can hardly keep up with all of my orders right now. I’m currently 2 months back ordered!
Then it hit me….I don’t paint nude people in horrendously awkward poses! My art doesn’t drip with anguished emotion or dark, naked images that are supposed to mean something existential.
My mentor pulls out some charcoal sketches of nudes…mostly women, laying around listlessly, naked. (On a side note, can I just observe that this is NOT reality...who has time to lay around naked? Not me!)
In all fairness, I can see his point. The human body is a difficult subject to master successfully and takes time and talent. Many of the ancient art masters spent years sculpting, painting and sketching the naked form, but must I? I felt awkward and embarrassed looking at these pictures, created by other male artists, of nude women in various contorted poses that would keep any chiropractor busy.
I spent some time considering these two things…Pollyanna and innocent art. Do I really want to sacrifice my morals so that I can be an edgy artist? Can’t I paint what inspires me? Things like my children on the beach, nature, light and portraits?
I am certainly not a Pollyanna in the sense that I don’t know the reality of pain and suffering. My life is no different than yours, my friend. Pain is a part of life, I have experienced my share and I’m absolutely positive there will be more to come. There is just a choice to look up, be cheerful and leave the worrying to a higher authority.
So, here I am. I’ve entered the intimidating, high and mighty, hoity-toity art world. Will I make it? Probably not. I really don’t have any desire to lay my morals on the altar of the weird, the ugly, the art that insults your senses and doesn’t satisfy the need for balance and beauty….basically the altar of artistic gallery success and fame.
There, I said it. Now all you art critics can collectively gasp in horror.
Will I paint nudes to sell more art? No. Will I sacrifice my “innocent” art to make more money? No. I paint what I love, what brings light to people, what is beautiful and inspiring.
Is it so bad to be content with the simple things in life, to be committed to one person only, to not desire fame and fortune and to be happy in my own modestly-appareled skin?
I refuse to compromise my art.
I think my next painting will be named "Pollyanna".