The feeling of being upset or annoyed, especially because of the inability to change or achieve something.
Here’s something we can all connect on right now. Of all the emotions capable in human existence I may have experienced this one the most. But I suppose when you choose to pursue art (or rather it chooses you) you’re signing up for a fair amount of frustration.
As I mentioned in a previous post on this blog, my adolescence was marred by physical challenges. As soon as I got one under control, my weight, another presented itself, face-scarring acne. I sought remedy for that as well, but not before it altered my complexion for life. In retrospect I count the challenge of losing weight in the plus column. It taught me many things, but chiefly among them, that I could look at a thing I wanted to change and know I have the power to do so. If I reach really, really, really far I could put acne in the same column, since it taught me to be humble? I still could have done without it. However, these things forced me inward, I didn’t lash out in anger. I turned to my imagination and the creation of expansive inner realms to express myself and communicate.
This led to collegiate pursuits destined for frustration. I left college with a BFA in studio art with an emphasis in drawing. If that doesn’t have “job market” written all over it, I don’t know what does.
I’ve held a variety of jobs in my life. I’ve been a lifeguard, an aqua-cise instructor, a janitor, a natural disaster mitigation specialist, a beer brewer, a boat graphic producer, a construction worker, a picture framer, an art installer, and a retail stock boy. Don’t get me wrong I have always been grateful for gainful employment, especially to people who’ve given me these jobs with little to no experience in the field. However, none of these jobs challenged me to reach my full potential, to use my not inconsiderable amounts of energy, creativity, and altruistic tendencies. This led to countless evenings, exhausted, paint brush in hand, diligently in pursuit of ventures more suited to my abilities.
My strategy has always been to outwork my peers. I may not become the best artist the world has ever seen (not with that attitude, my inner monologue says) but I can certainly endeavor to be the hardest working one.
I wish I could innumerate the amount of times I have been told “no” to proposals or ideas, but I honestly have no clue what that number is, no clue what that number even was from 2019 alone. One of my favorite rejected ideas, to this day, was to turn a vacant storefront into an art gallery and studio. This was during the recession in the early aughts, and many storefronts in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana were out of use. I contacted a dozen locations with an idea to inhabit those spaces. I proposed to leave up all “for-rent” signage, make it clear to anyone who stopped by that the space was indeed available, but that I utilize it to work from at a reduced rent. The owner would receive money, foot-traffic, and awareness and I would get space to work from in a bustling downtown environment. After several follow ups and only one person replied, via their assistant. “Not at this time.” That building sat empty for years.
Perhaps I didn’t communicate my vision to those building owners as thoroughly and eloquently as I could, but I have a tendency to close off when people don’t immediately understand my vision. I’ve come to find it’s most likely a combination of my sensitivity toward criticism and the fact that most people need to get to know me in order to understand I really am just trying to help, with little to nothing expected in return.
I have an overwhelming tendency to put everyone else first. To operate from a baseline of “Is everyone else okay?,” or “What can I do to help everyone else out?” That might sound noble, but it can lead to murky territory. Sometimes I over-extend and find myself in situations where I’ve gone so far past taking time for me that I have intense reactions. It’s hard to know what that limit looks like because I do want to do as much as I can and pride myself on pushing past limitations. But I do need to work on identifying the moment just before I react negatively. It’s a problem I’m very aware of, and one I’m actively working on.
The final thing I want to touch on is social media. Personally, I’m a fan. I wouldn’t be writing these blog posts or able to bring you my show next week without it! Social media has proved especially wonderful during this time of isolation. Thank god for FaceTime and Netflix, right?
Social media is a great tool for reaching out to one-another. It allows you to meet and connect with people you never would have without it. It allows you to be a part of peoples’ lives when you can’t physically be there. But like any tool, if used improperly it can cause harm. Never before have we been able to witness perceived wealth and happiness in such a way; in your face and accessible at all times. If you forget you’re watching someone’s highlight real and you try to compare it to your day-to-day, frustration will ensue. This can lead to jealousy and anger. It can lead to catastrophe.
These are some highlights from my personal frustration reel, they are small compared to some, and big compared to others. I acknowledge many of them are from a wildly fortunate place of privilege. I am grateful that these have been and are my problems.
I am ever grateful to that chubby little kid I once was who saw something about himself he didn’t like and sought to change it. That decision started a trend. It informed a big part of who I was going to be – a person who seeks remedy, comes up with a game plan, and sets goals. So, in this quarantine we’re all experiencing, I turned to similar tactics.
I want to close this with a personal offer to anyone who might need an accountability partner or who wants to take on a challenge and have someone to report to – shoot me a message. Through all those jobs, all those frustrations I’ve had to get real creative over the years, in between work with no money and stuck at home. I would love to share those lessons with anyone who is interested. We’re all in this together, and I’d relish the opportunity to help in any way I can.
Co-Founder Atlantis Collective Gallery