Transitioning: Back in the Studio / by Jacqueline Iskander Mosaics

Yesterday, I made it back into my studio after almost two months. I only worked a couple of hours, cutting and laying pieces on my in-progress work, Fragile HeartI stumbled a bit, and after about an hour, I removed all the pieces I had cut and started over. The second attempt was better, and I'll be able to judge how much better when I return to the studio later today or tomorrow. The red shading is very challenging for me, and was no easier yesterday than when I started this little piece a few years ago. Maybe it will get easier, maybe not. Even after 18+ years, there are many aspects of mosaic-making, or should I say art-making, that are challenging for me. 

So where have I been the last couple of months? I've been mostly consumed with family issues, the biggest of which was my daughter's Genital Reconstruction Surgery and recovery. I spent the month of December in San Jose, caring for Alex as she underwent the 7-hour surgery and the very long recovery, made longer due to a couple of very unfortunate and painful setbacks. She is now in San Jose, continuing with her recovery and easing back into her life. I blogged — more like journaled — about the experience on a Tumblr blog titled Race Street, which you can read here. 

I bring up my Race Street blog because, although it is obviously a story of Alex's physical transition, I think that there was and is a whole lot more transitioning going on, because of the way that things played out. This period of time, although quite brutal in most respects, has, I sense, changed me. Will it be a long-lasting change, or will I just slip back into the me that I was before this all began? I think the answer to that is up to me. 

When I received notice that my work If I Were A Treewhich I thought was a pretty strong work, was not accepted for the 2015 MAI Exhibition, my reaction was not like it would have been a year ago. Of course, my ego took a hit and my head chatter went to the I'm just not good enough... My work is just not good enough soundtrack. But it just did not seem as inviting as it would normally be to wallow in that state of mind. Very quickly I responded to the I'm just not good enough stuff with So what? So what if I'm not good enough. So what if my art is not good enough. It is what it is. And I want to keep doing it. It just did not matter, truly did not matter. And my next thought was There is something about the work that has bothered me anyway, so now I will rework that area and make it better. Maybe it really is not good enough, and I can make it better. Better in my eyes anyway. And that's the best that I can do.

You would think that accepting that I might not be good enough would be a little crushing, but it was actually quite liberating. And it is not so much accepting it as it is just not caring. And its not not caring in the sense of not caring about doing good work. Its not caring in the sense of realizing that its not important how good it is, as long as its the goodest work that I can do. How can I do anything more than that? So I don't have to be insecure about it, now that it is out in the open. This does not mean that my work is not good, or that someone else wouldn't think it is very good, good enough to buy, which, or course, has happened. But its a relief to forget about being good and just get about making stuff, which is the fun part. This is a difficult thing for an artist to hold onto — to work without worrying how your work will be accepted — but this is the kind of space in which I intend to try to occupy from now on. If I'm there now, there is hope that I can stay there.

So how did my grueling month in San Jose change me? I'll probably only be able to see it and talk about it in retrospect. But I think I'm figuring some things out that I can carry into the studio with me. We'll see...