Archive for September 8th, 2009

Elmira Street 1994This is an old piece from 1994 when I was still just beginning to realize that I might find something in all the time and effort I was putting into painting.  It’s not a great piece but there are things I like about, things that gave me a feeling of potential, at least in my own head.

I bring this up because of a brief conversation I had with a friend this past weekend.  I attended an opening at the West End Gallery and ran into a friend, also a painter, so naturally our conversation turned to baseball.  We were discussing a well known pitcher who had great abilities, great stuff, who, while occasionally displaying his brilliant talents, often performed far below his talent level.  His efforts seemed to betray his potential.

In the conversation, I equated the pitcher to a painter we both knew.  I had followed his work for a number of years ever since he had graduated from a pretty good college program, having seen a group of his collegiate work at a time not too long after I had painted the piece above.   I remember being very impressed at the time.  Actually, envious is a better word for what I felt.  I saw real potential in that work and realized that I was struggling to achieve things that obviously came easily to him.  I remember being a little disheartened at the time at my own talents compared to his.

But his subsequent work has yet to live up to the potential I saw.  It has been okay but hasn’t made any leaps above that early work.  It’s always puzzled me and made me feel he was somehow betraying his obvious talent and potential.  I pointed this out to my friend this past Friday and he had a different take.  He thought I was seeing more potential in that collegiate work than may have been there, that while there was talent most of what I was seeing was the result of a lot of supplied direction from his instructors, not the result of his own natural output.  He also pointed out that the other painter had other avenues that he was following, that his real potential might not even lay in the same field I was seeing it.

At that point in my head I immediately realized that I was so wrong in my appraisal of this painter’s potential.  I was seeing his potential against my own desires, not taking into account his own desires, which might include goals that were a million miles from my own.  I was imagining what I could do with the talent I saw in that early.  I was assuming that he had the need to express himself solely through his art, the same as I did.  His failure to followup on the potential I placed on his work was not his failure, it was mine in not seeing that his potential had merely moved in different directions.

It made me look at my whole attitude on the expectations of other’s potential.  What I might see as important might not seem so important in the lives of others and vice versa.  I see this artist’s life and potential in a whole different light, one not shaded with my own expectations of what he could or should be.

Phew, that feels good to get off my chest…

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