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I have always had a problem with authority. With anyone telling me what to do or how to do it. Constructive criticism in relation to my art I can handle, especially if it comes from someone whose opinion I respect. Otherwise, I resist. In jobs, in relationships, in encounters with the law, medicine, education. This is mostly why I run my own business and write alone. Why I’m a solitaire, even among compatriots. When I collaborate it must be with someone also that I respect utterly and whom I know reciprocates this feeling. Thus neither of us are per se, an authority, but are on equivalent ground in terms of the knowledge, experience and so forth in our particular art forms. Or even if one collaborator has much more given authority in terms of their longevity or skill, there are still ways that I become an authority also, by undertaking aspects of the collaboration more efficiently or effectively than they can and thus balancing out the equation. In my personal life, it’s trickier. My dad used to say to me when I was a reckless teen, “Why can’t you just reply Yes Father!” Frankly, the thought of kowtowing appalled me. Still does. The problem is, as you get older, always having this knee-jerk resistance to anyone telling you what to do can play deeper havoc with relationships or employment. Pride has hardened you. And the extreme statement continues to emerge, but sounds more absurd all the time – “Fine then, I will live in the street !” or “If I’m forced to do that I might as well die!”

How does this relate to being  an artist in the world? I think part of being an artist is resisting. The status quo, pressure to live in a certain mode that’s more, well, apropos, the systems that threaten to subdue us, render us incapable of protesting, of dreaming otherwise. Yet the habit can become so ingrained that it blinds you. Sometimes I think I’ve arrived at that place where yes, I go forward in the manner I always have, to hell with the consequences, or no, I need to modify, be less aggressive, not so fiercely rigid. I don’t know how I’ll turn out, how anything will unfold really anymore. But then, perhaps I only once imagined I did, back before death said to me, “you know nothing, ” and I replied in a whisper, “maybe so.”

by Catherine Owen