For those of you who might not know, this was the title of the exhibition I ran recently. Now that the opening has come and gone after months of preparation, I can sit back with a relaxed and content sense of accomplishment and note what I learned from this experience.
First of all, here is a little background on my limited experiences of organising a solo exhibition and indeed my background as an artist. I’ve always struggled with calling myself an artist and I allowed a lack of confidence in my abilities to shy away from really throwing myself into my work. The art world can be a scary place!! When I think of an artist, I think of someone exotic and eccentric; who can be found with every grade of pencil in their hair and bits of sketches flowing from every pocket. After studying printmaking in art college and years of dabbling in other areas of creativity, I often wondered where I fit in. Then I hid behind the ladder I climbed in becoming an Art teacher. Surely, that will suffice enough to encourage others in their creativity with certainly no time for my own creation. I know that this was an excuse! For the moment, I don’t want to divulge too many of my thoughts on this topic as I hope to soon write a post called Created to create. For now, my intention of mentioning this bit of informaton is to highlight the fact that I never thought I would run my own exhibition. I had always exhibited with others and I really thought that I coud never have enough courage to display and organise one on my own. I still can’t believe I did it! I feel like a little dream has come true…
For this exhibition, I actually based it on a collection of beautiful photographs that my grandfather took throughout the 1940’s to 1960’s. Perhaps, you could accuse me of hiding behind someone else’s work but it really was my desire to share these photos with the surrounding people. That being said, you would be somewhat right in the sense that by removing the pressure of exposing my own work, I could concentrate on developing a confidence in organising and holding an exhibition and all that that entails.
Listed are a few lessons learned:
1. Take the time to ask some questions! I learned, as I have through other endeavers in life, that there is never harm in asking questions! Ask about who to contact, ask if they would spread the word, ask if you could exhibit in their space, ask what they can offer. Ask others their opinion in the setup, the layout and all the other practicalities that can seem so dainting and overwhelming for one person (even for someone such as I who finds great enjoyment in organising! ) You would be surprised how people will jump on board with you and help along the way. I’m so gratfeul for such people that I have met recently. ( I also couldn’t have done it without my sister in law being so involved practically, especially when it can takes days to set up!)
2. Take a deep breath and relax. Some of you could find this easy, such as my sister in law, who would be labelled as so placid that sometimes you would wonder if she even has a pulse. Inevitably, something will go wrong, such as coming in on the morning of the exhibit and seeing all of the photos laying on the floor, after hours of accurately measuring the layout the days before. And yes, I did just slap them up, hoping for the best and that no one would come along along with a ruler…. You will also forget something but roll with it, if you have the main bits set in place then no one will even notice whatever you had thought of and then forgot. Surround yourself with such calm people when you are wound up so that they can encourage you with their placid demeanour…Ally Walshe.
3. Take the time to observe your audience. One of things I most enjoyed from the opening day was seeing the expressions on some of the viewers as they found pleasure from admiring another’s perspective. It was especially exciting to their faces light up when they were able to recognise themselves or loved ones. The opening can be such a busy time as you try to make conversation with those who have walked in the doors, as well as making sure that the flow of the day is going smoothly. However, try to be purposeful in standing back for a moment and observing those standing in front of the artwork. It gave me such delight and a sense of accomplishment to be able to witness the excitement and happiness that was sparked from the photographs displayed. One example of this was a lady who came along and had with her, a photograph of her sixteen year old self that my grandfather had taken in 1946!
I could write more about other things that I learned through this. Such as the benefits of gathering feedback and all of the organising tips in the preparation. However, I will simply leave it at those three points. I say all of this not to put myself on any pedestal but to encourage other artists out there who might have struggled with confidence. I want to humbly express that no matter how you may feel about exposing yourself through your art or through an exhibition, that stepping out despite those fears will be so rewarding and so worth it! In displaying your work, you are sharing your impressions of the world around you, some may like it and some may not! But either way, there is really no wrong or right here and therefore that provides you the freedom to know that you cannot fail in this endeavour! So relax and enjoy the reactions to what you share with the world. I take this with me as I wonder about the future exhibitions I may hold. You never know, perhaps I will give it another go here in New Zealand….
Thanks to those who came along! Here are a few photos I took of the display.
Below are photos from the opening day, courtesy of Mackenzie Zemek.