I soon found that trying to ignore or discount the relationship of fear and change would be damn near impossible.
People are creatures of habit. We drive the same roads to work and home from work; we follow the same morning routine every day; we shop in the same stores, etc. Resistance to change is an issue for all of us, but especially so for artists. See the image above? Showing a nude in color is a huge change for me. Some would even say it’s out of character.
For the artist’s work to grow and evolve, for artists to meet the demands placed upon themselves by their own creativity, change must occur. If change is not present, the work becomes stale, old; perhaps even boring. Artists have been known to quit rather than change. Such an attitude borders on dogmatism, and in extreme situations, fanaticism. Often, all that is required to alleviate the pressure, and the fear, is a healthy dose of change.
But for many, the mere concept of change is scary and breeds fear. People stay in bad jobs and bad relationships because they fear change. Artists produce bad work because they fear change. Fear of change fosters fear of failure, and ultimately for the artist, fear of rejection.
For me the opposite holds true. I embrace change, often times too quickly and to my own detriment. My mother often told me I always wanted to be where I wasn’t. “You’re always on the way to somewhere else. Try to be where you are for a while” she would say. All too soon, I throw out the old before I should; I grab hold of the new before I’m fully aware of what I’m doing. Certainly, this has brought a good share of suffering and heartache my way. It has also taken me on many new and exciting adventures.
The image here is a classic result of how I embrace and deal with change. It is from my project called ETHOS, a project born out of both fear and change. I was feeling my work with the nude figure had become old and repetitive, stagnant and boring. The change I initiated was significant; a fantastic departure from mostly black backgrounds and sharp, contoured monochrome abstracts and full figure portraits. It swept me up fully. ETHOS was born from the desire of change, pushed by the fear of …truthfully I’m not sure what I was afraid of. A more honest answer is that I was bored and growing lazy.
I debuted the project in a solo gallery show with 15 framed pieces. Three of them sold on opening night. Two more sold a month after the show was finished. The gallery directors and I were pleased. I was booked for a second show more or less on the spot. Not bad.
But ETHOS turned the tables on me. I continued to shoot images for the project and there were problems. ETHOS required a complicated set with a minimum of three assistants. The lighting grew more complex with each set as I continued to experiment until I was using a combination of four monolight heads, each placed with great care and precision. The fabric scrims had to be steamed and stretched. Directing the model, when neither of us could see one another was a whole other challenge. It was complicated, difficult, and often frustrating.
Producing work I was happy with looking at myself, much less showing in a gallery exhibition, became increasingly difficult the longer the project endured. ETHOS had quickly gone from being something new and exciting to being a chore.
I found myself longing for simple sets and light arrangements; longing for those images that were minimalist to the core. ETHOS was a classic example of my rush to change things too fast, too quickly, without fully examining the need for change.
I have now ended ETHOS. My experience of the project taught me many things as an artist. It was a good lesson in how to know when the time is right for change, to know when to look more closely at what is happening already, and to look for ways to keep the flow going as it is. In my case, the change to ETHOS worked well; certainly it was better than had I seized with fear and did nothing, or simply quit.
So it’s back to simple studio arrangements and simple sets; back to the production of images that are quietly beautiful. To my eye, those are always the best.
Yet change continues and I welcome it. I’ve started projects that will take my cameras and models out of the studio and into natural light environments. It’s new and exciting; even exhilarating. And it’s laced with simplicity.