Harvin Speaks Up for Her Art
I started painting when I was in high school. My art teacher, Mrs. Reames, was my saving grace. My senior year, it was all I really wanted to do. I lost interest in many of the other things that I once enjoyed, so art became an escape for me that I really treasured. It became a mode of expression. I picked up a paintbrush, pencils and charcoal, and escaped to an acceptable place where I could both vent and heal.
My grandmother and my aunt are both amazing portrait artists, and I had always admired their work. Maybe art was always a part of me. By the time I realized it, I really needed it.
I felt nervous, hesitant and caught off guard when Mom approached me about the idea of showcasing my art in an exhibit. I felt afraid of being "exposed," as if I were being asked to get naked in a crowd. My mom would move mountains for me. She had and always has the best of intentions for my sister and me—this was no different. She would do anything to try and help me further my journey toward healing from the bad times and reveling in great times and accomplishments. She is proud of me, and I love her so much for that. I love my sister, too, for having just as much faith in me.
To a certain degree, Mom is right: it is difficult for me to share my artwork with people because I'm afraid they'll ask about my inspiration. I prefer NOT to use words, which is why I paint.
I can share an emotion or feeling or experience out loud on canvas without ever having to open my mouth. It is almost like having an "inside secret" because only me and the canvas might "get it." Art is where I go to lick my wounds. However, I do not just paint about sadness. I also paint things that reflect the happiness about who I am in the present and the elation I feel about a promising future. Art is like my diary. All of it mostly documents my personal journey in ways that are personal to me.
My paintings were special to me and, I know it sounds a little crazy, but I almost have this relationship with them.
If people were to put my paintings down, then the one non-judgmental place on Earth that I could safely share any thought or feeling in the world would feel tarnished. If they misunderstood them, then I would feel overprotective. If they wanted them, then I would end up feeling like a sellout.
It was a mix of emotions as to why I was very hesitant about the art show. Most of them were both personal and irrational. But I never had to explain that before. I'm not good at explaining it because I know how crazy it probably sounds. It's seriously the only time I become mute about anything! It is hard for me to argue, rebut or defend anything regarding my feelings about my art because who wants to be forced to tell their own secrets. Even now, I struggle with explaining myself because I do not know how to do so without sounding a little bit ridiculous.
The long and short of it is that a lot of my art does tap into my past. I do not want to be identified by my past; I do not want to be punished for my past; I do not want people to feel sorry for me about my past.
I go to the canvas and put my thoughts and feelings in colors that do not talk, even though they speak volumes to me.
I was worried about being late for the meeting with Sharlinda and the gallery owner because I knew Sharlinda would get on Mom, Meyer and me about it big time. I did not want to be rude to the gallery owner either so of course I was concerned.
We are late a lot though, so I pretty much live in worried-about-being-late mode. Meyer and I always ride together everywhere because it's easier...one of us is always dragging the other one out of the house!
When I voiced my concerns about the gallery show to Mom, I was nothing thinking about backing out. I would have never back out.
I just needed a minute to compose myself. I'm not saying that I didn't want to run for the hills because I could have seriously been just fine with that idea, but I would have never done that. My fear turned to a moment of frustration. I kept thinking, Why do I even need to do this kind of thing? But I knew I was going regardless.
It's not my nature to be "cowardly." Good or bad, I'm all too often a fight over flight kind of person, so there was nothing that was going to keep me from actually showing up. It could not be further from my personality to abandon any situation where my mother and sister were counting on me. I did not want to let them or Sharlinda down. I made a promise. I am too strong-willed to allow my fears to get the best of me. I've been like that since I was a child, so I wasn't going to chicken out of this.
Even though I felt pressured to go on with the art show, I believed that my family was pressuring me within reason, and that it was coming from a good place. However, I did feel like Sharlinda was pressuring my mom for different reasons. It was her attempt to get my mom to be "tougher" on us, and to push her to get me to take advantage of any potential business opportunity because it was her opinion that Mom was "too easy on us."
When Sharlinda discussed some of the issues I've struggled with at the gallery, I was disturbed by her casual openness about things that I protected and kept personal to me. I guess Sharlinda would have never really known exactly how I felt about my art and what it meant to me though because I never told her either.
I had hoped that Sharlinda would be a little more sensitive to my whole family regarding the art show because, whether she knew all the details or not, it was a vulnerable moment for all of us and my mom explained that to her.
Sharlinda is a no-nonsense, "force your hand" kind of person. That is just her approach to things, and she meant well. In her own way, she felt like she was helping me. Everyone handles things differently. I am a mover and a shaker in the business world, and I put up with very little BS in that department, but this art show was not my professional business. I was doing it because my mom and my sister encouraged me to do it as a means to progress in my own journey and reach out to others who had also suffered.
When I finally arrived at the art gallery, I did not understand what all the commotion was about. I was very confused! I had no clue what could have gone down in the matter of minutes between when mom and Meyer got there and when I arrived. It was crazy. I was already overwhelmed and anxious, so when the art gallery turned into a warpath, I felt confused, humiliated, stupid, embarrassed and angry as hell all at the same time. I also felt like I was going to go nuts if anyone was ugly to my mom and sister.
To be clear: it had not been discussed previously that Sharlinda would put me at the center of attention and have me talk about my paintings. I thought Sharlinda was just going to facilitate this introduction to the art gallery owner and let things flow in a peaceful manner from there. No such luck. Sharlinda is hardcore. There's nothing wrong with that at all. It is just her personality. It is also MY personality on every level in my life—EXCEPT in this one area that I consider my "weak zone," where I prefer to move at my own pace.
I make progress in my "weak zone," but it is slower than the progress I make in other areas of my life. I think that most people have a "weak zone" that they are protective over. Sharlinda pounced on my "weak zone" and it is an loud reminder that I have weaknesses which is OK, but it is not something that I feel comfortable about or that I want to be reprimanded about. I go at my own speed in healing that area of my life, and art helps me do that.
Art is not my professional business. I was not prepared for Sharlinda to force my hand in that direction. It was a misunderstanding for sure.
In hindsight, I totally understood where Sharlinda was coming from. She wanted to help me heal by sharing my art with the world. It made perfect sense, and she is probably 100 percent right! I just did not know if I was quite ready for an art show. When I decided to do it, I had hoped that Sharlinda would have handled it differently.
I was imagining that it would be close friends and family, champagne, and an uncomfortable yet necessary way to get my feet wet when it comes to being open about my art.
I think Sharlinda was disappointed in me and so she came down on me hard. She was really harsh on Mom and Meyer even though they ultimately had no control over what I did or did not do. They showed up out of respect for Sharlinda and in support of me.
Sharlinda was not trying to hurt me and I know that. She was trying to help me, and then she got angry because she felt that I had let her down. From that moment on, it just became a battle zone. I already felt really uncomfortable coming into the art show and then she embarrassed me really bad. At that point, I just wanted to get me, my mom, my sister and my paintings out!
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