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Why am I afraid of being an “Artist”?

So, I don’t feel comfortable saying, “I’m an artist.” Saying it to myself is a little more bearable, but out loud? Definitely not. It feels foreign and contrived. And it makes me feel pretentious.

I worry that by labeling myself as an artist, I become “that person who’s at risk of becoming a starving artist” in other people’s eyes. Which I DEFINITELY have a problem with: I HAVE NEWS FOR YOU. JUST BECAUSE I WANT TO MAKE ART PROFESSIONALLY DOESN’T MEAN I WON’T HAVE MONEY.

And, on another note, I guess I’m just worried that by saying I’m an artist I become that person who says things like, “You wouldn’t understand, I’m an artist” or “I’m an artist so I get modern art” or “I just need to express myself.” While, yes, I do need to express myself (because that’s when I feel most alive), I don’t want to be that hipster who thinks she’s better than everyone.

I also wonder if my position as someone who studies theatre, yet not as a theatre major in the CFA contributes to my level of comfort with the word. Were I a theatre major creating and thinking about theatre more regularly, spending more time in the CFA, surrounded by other theatre artists more often, would my feelings about the label change? Would I feel more fine stepping into the label? Would I even step into it, or would it step into me?

So, then what about once I graduate this upcoming May? I’ll shed my identity as an official student and begin working in theatre. Will I feel comfortable associating myself with the word then? What will the moment when I genuinely feel comfortable identifying myself as an artist look like? Will it come in the form of a particular instance – a sort of rite of initiation into the pool of artists – or will it be a process? Will there be times when I feel more comfortable and less comfortable using it? Will those moments be based on the “success” of whatever I’ve created? I certainly hope not. Will I use the label sometimes, as a mere tactic?

For now, I feel more comfortable calling myself a creator, a healer (I fundamentally believe art heals), a collaborator, a listener, someone with a voice, an analyzer, someone interested in innovation and “pushing the thing’s boundaries”, someone who thinks and speaks in metaphors, someone who is enchanted by art.

And other thoughts on myself as an “artist”: Is the “artist” in me only a percentage of myself? Can it be quantified or is it all-pervasive? Does it take up a corner of me, or does it fill up the whole box? Is my identity as an “artist” relative, depending on who I’m interacting with? Can someone be more of an artist than another? And if an artist is someone who creates art, who’s to say who can be an “artist” and who can’t if the very definition of art is not clean-cut?


About gbfontenele

Director and dramaturg in training. Free spirit and questioner from the beginning.

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