On Vulnerability and Discomfort

The 2018 season officially began this past weekend with the 4Bridges Art Festival. Generally speaking, I don’t do a lot of Fine Arts Festivals, and I don’t do many festivals at all in the southeast. I like to keep with my fellow vagabond steampunk vendors in other reaches of the Country. They are my creative tribe, I know where we stand in that community, I know I am accepted and loved, it all feels very comfortable. 4Bridges from the very beginning felt uncomfortable for me.

I have a saying that I use a LOT: “A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.” We have to get outside our heads, allow ourselves to be stretched, and sink into the discomfort. If we fail to do this often and with our whole hearts, we fail to evolve. And yet, even as much as I say this phrase, I have a difficult time settling into discomfort. 

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Even as an artist myself, I spend quite a bit of effort to stay only cautiously attached the Art World. This is a bold and possibly detrimental statement. I am aware of that. This feeling stems mostly from me having a difficult time being vulnerable and justifying my own art. It is a world that I don't fully fit into and don't really know how to navigate. It is a place I feel very exposed, with people playing a game with rules I don't know how to navigate. 

4Bridges and the time leading up to it was a practice of immersion into that world that I stay guardedly attached to. The act of sinking into that discomfort was almost instead an act of drowning for me. As a person fighting the water as they struggle to keep afloat, I fought the discomfort. I fought against the new voices that now had a say in how and when and what my creative process was. Every interview and highlight felt like a practice of narcissism. All of it wrapping me up into a chaotic package that I felt was counter to how I want to live my true life. I whined, I was frustrated, I felt violated, I whined some more.

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What I love about ceramics is the vulnerability of it. Vessels are made to carry and taste and connect. I find it an honor to make vessels for people. In this way we build lovely little connections into each other’s lives. That is also what I love about art in generally, those connections are what I love about festivals and shows, and it is what I ended up loving about 4Bridges. In order to settle into the discomfort, in order to grow, I needed to mimic the vulnerability that I love about the vessels I make. Showing in my own city, making my own art, and creating new connections with other humans is an act in vulnerability and  humility, and that is what makes it amazing. Genuine and honest connections are never anything short of pure magic.

I cannot say honestly that I embraced all the discomfort that was awarded me, but I can say that I reached a point where I allowed it. I reached a point where I was able to see clearly that I was fighting not against anything bad, but instead fighting to stay in my own comfort zone. Instead of pushing against it, I needed to become as open as possible to the beauty that can come from any vulnerability. By holding on so tight trying to control the experience I was robbing myself and others from actually having the experience.

Release. Create. Connect.

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Jaime Peterson