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Archive for May 19th, 2017

 

I came across this post from about 4 years ago and it made me take pause to think.  Sometimes in the course of living day to day, we often lose sight of the bigger picture that is our own life. We often focus on small things, little tasks and minor grievances, causing us to take for granted whatever good fortune that we may have experienced. I find that this is true in the weeks before a show when I am buried in my work. And I think that it  must seems especially true for most of us in these crazy days that we are going through as a nation.

So, today, instead of worrying and burying myself in angst, I am going to focus on the ways in which I have been so fortunate and allow myself to enjoy it, to be happy. Here’s what I wrote four years back:

There is but one success– to be able to spend your life in your own way.

— Christopher Morley, 1922

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I was contacted a week or two back by a man who had given me a great opportunity as an artist in my early years, a large commission that gave me the confidence to make the leap to painting on a full-time basis.  We had not seen one another in many years but he had seen some of the recent publicity about my work and he reached out to me, wanting to congratulate me and see how things were going in general.

For me, it was an opportunity to offer him the gratitude I felt he deserved even though it had been fifteen years since he had worked with me.  The years had clarified how large his decision to use my work meant to my career. So we talked for a bit, me thanking him and him telling me how proud he was of my work and of his ability to have seen something in it in those early days.  It was a nice talk and, after agreeing to get together soon, he put a  final question before me that gave me pause.

Are you successful, Gary?”  he asked.

I wasn’t sure what he meant by successful and the possibilities ran through my mind.  Was he talking about being a financial success?  A critical success, one based on notoriety?  Or was he asking if I was simply happy, satisfied by my life?  It suddenly seemed that success was such a relative term, that one person’s definition of success might not even begin to satisfy the next person’s requirements for it.

But my own?  What was success for me? In the flash of that moment, I tried to put this all together  and determine what the word meant to me.  I thought for a split-second of success being determined by money and fame but settled quickly on my own self-satisfaction as being the determinant of what I might define as success.  I knew in that moment that there would always be those who will make more money, gain more fame and influence than me.  But I also knew that even with more of these things I would be no more  satisfied with the life I was leading–  I do what I want  and I am able to do it on my own terms.  The image came to me then of those times when I am walking through the woods between my house and my studio and I stop and look around, thinking that I am more fortunate in this way than I ever dreamed of in my early years.

I knew in that flash that this  feeling of that satisfied moment in the woods was success for me.  I told him that yes, I was successful, more than I had hoped for.

I have thought about this conversation a number of times.  I still have fears and anxieties, still aspire for more in my career.  But it’s those moments of feeling truly fortunate to do what I do, feeling that warm glow of satisfaction in my life if only for a few seconds here and there each day, that define success for me.

I think back to a few weeks ago when I spoke with a group of high school students and I hope that I gave them  some idea that this is what success is– that if they can set their own  expectations and find satisfaction in these, they will be successful.

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The new painting shown here is a 9″ x 12″ canvas and is titled The Question. It is included in my solo show, Truth and Belief, which opens June 2 at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria. 

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