Artist statement/Rationale

This is my artist's statement/rationale included in my written Culminating Project paper. It explains the "why" of my project focus.

The focus and claim on which I devised my art-based Culminating Project were based primarily on their alignment with my desire to improve myself as an art educator and artist.

My identity issues as an art educator

Examining identity issues through an evolving lens of inquiry informs pedagogy and personal change.

Unlike many other Master's students, I am coming to this process after having taught art for over twelve years. The point of view I gained over my years of teaching experience clarified my focus in the following three ways. One, I suspected, from observation, that students faced similar fears to those that I did, when creating their artwork, therefore, I concluded that if I faced mine, I could inspire them to do the same. Two, in valuing the artist within myself, I speculated that I could help my students understand the importance of art in their lives, possibly encouraging them to go farther in their creative explorations. And three, it occurred to me, after many years of teaching, that making identity balance a priority for myself, could make me a stronger teacher, because I would gain patience and perspective.

Pragmatically, I did a serious self-examination of what I needed in my life as an art educator. I asked myself such questions as, "What was missing? What would make me a better teacher? What would make me a happier teacher? What would make me a more complete person?" Eventually, it occurred to me that I was still suffering from an age-old personal struggle.

Ever since I was a child, I have created and made things. I drew, painted, colored, collaged, stamped, photographed, built, combined, trimmed, stitched, carved, taped, glued, stapled, traced, pinned, and doodled my way through reams of paper, stacks of magazines, stashes of stickers, heaps of cardboard, bags of fabric, baskets of yarn, bottles of paint, boxes of junk, and handfuls of pencils, markers, and crayons. Yet, even though I did all of those things fluidly, constantly, and confidently, unlike the people around me who seemed perfectly at ease with labeling me an artist, I never seriously considered myself a "real artist." I knew I was inventive. I knew I was creative. I knew I was crafty. But I was never comfortable labeling myself an artist.

After years of struggling with this identity issue--artist or not--I have come to the conclusion that the basis for a lot of my self-doubt unconsciously evolved from my father's views about the value of making art. He was an artist--a squelched one--from what I have surmised over the years. He collected and displayed the artwork of other "real artists", yet not his own and has not done anything really artistic for decades. My father gave up on his personal artistic pursuits very early in his adult life, having adopted a view similar to that of his father. My father's family, I have deduced, believed that art was an acceptable hobby, but not a profitable career option, thus not worth wasting time or money on. 

Despite this strong conflict within, I continue to make things. I may not be comfortable with accepting the label of "artist," but I cannot imagine not getting my hands messy in paint, glue, and paper, on a regular basis. Cutting off my avenues for artistic expression would be tantamount to cutting off my arm. So, why has this resistance and identity struggle persisted into adulthood?

I was a designer and illustrator before studying to become a teacher. Those labels I accepted. When I became an art educator, I accepted that label fairly easily as well. And reflecting on it today, as I noted before, through everything I have continued to make "stuff," having always more readily accepted the self-imposed label of crafter.

In addition, I believe I have always simply viewed my devotion and drive never equal to those I considered to be "real artists."

"Real artists" play. I am restrained.
"Real artists" risk. I remain safe.
"Real artists" experience breakthroughs. I stay blocked.
And, "real artists" DO. I teach.

This identity struggle has recently become more pronounced, because as I get older and have taught even longer I have come to understand that consciously considering myself an artist can benefit me personally and professionally.

Consequently, this conscious consideration is where reflection, both about my teaching and about my desire to make more art, enters into the picture for me. I now feel better equipped with not only the desire I have to give respect to both the artist and teacher that exist within me, but also the clarity of why I arrived at the two central principles that inform my project focus. In order to best examine my thought, creative, and production processes, I came to the conclusion that a blog platform would be my chosen mode of reflective expression.

I already had a blog, but it primarily worked as a vehicle for sharing my scrapbooking endeavours. I decided to rework the blog to better serve my present need—that is, to make it a reflective and ongoing dialogue with myself and others that would help articulate my identity struggles as an artist and educator, and address them in positive ways. Reflection—especially public reflection—has never been foreign to me. I have been doing that with my scrapbooking for many years, making those reflections accessible to the public through posting in online galleries. So, I knew that the fairly modern artistic venue of a blog would work well for me. I’ve always enjoyed "putting myself out there," and receiving feedback. It makes me feel like I have a community of collaborators who will support me and hold me accountable, as well as inspire me to create and muse.