Before I Was An Artist, #5 / by Jacqueline Iskander Mosaics


Do you have trouble fitting into the label of artist? It feels quite natural for some people, but it has never felt like it fit me. 

As useful as labels are for us human beings, I've always been challenged to own a label but not identify with it. My idea of, and relationship to, the label of artist needs some work. And I may be onto something.


Thoughts on being fearless...

In my first years of mosaic-making, I was fearlessly ambitious, the way that a child is fearlessly ambitious. They have no fear because they don't know to be afraid. It's that ignorance of bliss, Garden of Eden kind of fearless. The unknowns are unknown, not even suspected. What a wonderful place from which to operate!  Children accomplish astonishing growth and mastery in their first few years of life, of which no small part must be due to being free of fear. 

As an adult, is it possible to truly be fearless? We talk about feeling the fear and doing it anyway, but I'd rather not feel it - not as it regards making mosaics. (Being uncomfortable identifying as an artist, I'll also refrain from saying that I make art. I'll just be a mosaicist and say that I make mosaics.) In trying to free myself of the artist label, to un-become an artist, I realize that I am really just trying to find a way to be fearless again.

We carry real and imagined critics with us constantly—a veritable babble of voices, some remembered, some prophesied, and each eager to comment on all we do. Beyond that, even society’s general notions about artmaking confront the artist with paralyzing contradictions... You’re expected to make art that’s intimately (perhaps even painfully) personal—yet alluring and easily grasped by an audience that has likely never known you personally.

When the work goes well, we keep such inner distractions at bay, but in times of uncertainty or need, we begin listening. We abdicate artistic decision-making to others when we fear that the work itself will not bring us the understanding, acceptance and approval we seek.
— David Bayles & Ted Orland, Art & fear

Of course, it's not really about the label itself—although I recognize that it's quite a loaded idea to me, or whether what I am making is or is not art—as that is not for me to decide. It's about how my relationship to mosaic-making changed as I started thinking in terms of being an artist and of making art. And it's not as though it was, in and of itself, a bad thing. It wasn't. Until it was. And it was necessary. Until it wasn't. 

Well, I just needed to wander off and ponder fearlessness. I'll go back to the early to mid-2000s in my next post, which would lead me out of the blissful ignorance of my small private mosaic world and into the public world of the blossoming mosaic community.