A Show Is Born

One of my roles as a Creative Pinellas 2023 emerging artist is to create several blog posts over the course of the grant cycle. For this first introduction to my art and who I am, my upcoming show at the Safety Harbor Arts and Music Center on January 7th seems like a good place to start. Or rather, the journey leading up to this this show, titled Beginner’s Mind, and the process of its coming to fruition.

Beginner’s Mind is a multidisciplinary, experiential, large-scale installation containing a combination of hanging, figurative papier-mache pieces, sewn objects, and painted palm fronds with incorporated video, sound, and olfactory elements. (You can read more details about that project and my process in the FB event write-up or Instagram post about the event.)

This has been a personally ambitious project in that it’s my first time formally attempting this type of work and my first time exhibiting it publicly. Although the opening coincides with the advent of my Creative Pinellas term, it was initially made possible by an individual artist grant I received in June from the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance, to whom I originally pitched the concept, and was later supplemented by a project-specific microgrant from the Gobioff Foundation. However, it really started about a year ago, before I had a show venue or any grants, and before I even knew what “it” was or that it would be a thing.

Early progress shot of papier-mache pieces
Progress shot of painted papier-mache and palm fronds

Around this time last year I found myself reconsidering my trajectory and approach coming out of the Florida CraftArt festival as an emerging artist with clay work. Ceramics has been my main instrument, closest to my heart, and where I have been able to reestablish myself as an artist in recent years after a long gap in being able to actively pursue my art (fodder for another blog). I’ll always use clay and make ceramic objects, but ceramics alone has never represented the full spectrum of my creative expression or aspirations. I was beginning to feel contained in that space, especially after steadily gaining recognition and support from my ceramic work, and made a conscious decision to adjust how and where I concentrate my creative energy to best align with how I want to express myself as an artist going forward.

Contrary to hustle-culture logic, that process included slowing down, being more selective about how and where I represent myself and focusing on work that I really want to make. It also meant putting the work first and trusting that everything else would generate from there. Liberating myself from the pressure to commodify my creative process gave me the space to explore ideas in more personally meaningful ways at my own pace, make new work I’m excited about, and to represent myself more authentically as an artist. All of that, in turn, has drawn opportunities into my sphere this year, starting with a generous offer by the Safety Harbor Art and Music Center to realize this current installation concept in their incredible space.

Ceramic doll sculpture parts made in 2021 that inspired the large papier-mache pieces
Ceramic doll sculpture parts made in 2021 that inspired the large papier-mache pieces

The title Beginner’s Mind relates to letting go of ego and perfection, remaining curious, taking risks, and enjoying the process regardless of the result. Formulating this show has been an exercise in all those things, jumping into a lot of unknowns and first-times, problem-solving and making decisions as I go. I’ve had to embrace the vulnerability of doing things I’ve never done, without knowing how any of it is going to work, then presenting it to the public in hopes that it somehow represents the vision I set out with and is also creatively satisfying. I’m still getting comfortable with some of the technology I’m using, figuring out how the final installation will be hung in the space and different technical considerations of the install, but I’m excited by everything I’ve learned though this process and the potential for future work. I’m also excited to finally birth this show into existence so I can move into this season with Creative Pinellas and my fellow cohort of emerging artists, which feels like a nice way to both close out and begin a year. So, cheers to 2023 and hope to see you at the Beginner’s Mind opening reception Saturday January 7th!

Process shot of finished, over-sized papier-mache pieces for the installation. Approx 10ft x 12ft x 5ft.
Process shot of sewn/stuffed pieces for the installation, based on blind contour drawings. Approx 7ft x 7ft.

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