The un-respectable “A” word.
February 17, 2012 § 6 Comments
I have never introduced myself or referred to myself as an “artist”. I don’t even say “writer”. I sort of hide behind “journalist”, knowing that it is a tad better than “blogger”, which in this country is right up there with tarot reader or professional scrap-booker. The very word artist sends shivers down the spines of my respectable family and their respectable neighbors with respectable careers and jobs. Being an artist just isn’t done, especially not when your parents are well-educated upper-class socialites who worked their asses off to provide you -and your sisters- with the best damn private education this country had to offer. And even then you couldn’t go all hippie and get some useless degree in creative writing or the like. No, going to college meant getting a real degree so you could be a lawyer or a doctor or a rocket scientist. And if you really, really wanted to be a *sigh* writer, you had to study something that would allow you to make a decent living. Something to fall back on. Something respectable.
Which is why my two sisters, one older and one younger, did us all proud and got sensible degrees in business administration. And me? Well, I’m the odd girl out. I was always the different one, the one with the imaginary playmates (who wouldn’t always play with me) and her nose in a book. I was the one who believed (OK, believes) in fairies and wrote poetry and concentrated more on the storyline than the wardrobe when playing with Barbie dolls. So I went as far as I could go and majored in Journalism and Mass Communications. I became a reporter and specialized in the arts, partly because I loved the art world and partly because I cried the whole time I was doing the ‘red pages’ (crimes and deaths). I became the editor and chief reporter (all right, the ONLY reporter) and photographer for the Sunday insert.Funny how something to fall back on became something to hide behind. I hid behind being a “photojournalist” because coming out and saying I was a photographer and a writer was just tacky.
Then I hid behind being a professor in a university where I got to teach people how to do what I loved but was too chicken to do. And I did that for a long time until I got pregnant and quit to take care of my son (more on that here and here). And then…a few months ago…I got itchy.
I felt something stirring in me. At first I thought it was boredom, but it ran deeper than that. I still had my humor column so I started a blog to upload those columns and maybe get readers from other Spanish-speaking countries. And then I started this blog, which is kind of a cyber-happy place in that I write what I feel like writing and don’t get payed so I have no responsibilities or dues. And it was fun and freeing. And I met a bunch of people and I started writing for some stuff online like the Indie Ink Challenge and I entered a contest and I got the Wordless Wednesday thing and…and…and I discovered, that I love to write. That I love to take pictures, not just for Wordless Wednesday, not just of my cute son doing cute things but really as an aesthetic, creative, artistic endeavor.
And finally, this year, out of the blue, some guy that was friends with a cousin who…well, some random guy stopped by my parent’s new house and looked at my pictures and loved them. He turned out to be the marketing director for a mall in Pereira, my hometown, and suggested I set up and exhibition. So I did. I printed out 24 pictures of close-ups of flowers, all of them taken in that region. At first I said this was just a quick way to make a buck to support my writing habit. But then, the day of the opening, there it was, in big bold letters (the letters were bolder than I had ever been): the Artist Angela Alvarez. And I got interviewed and people came and saw and ooohed and aaahhhed. ¡I felt like I was coming home, and my entire family not only oohed and ahhhed but also helped and supported and cheered and told me it was about time I did what they had always known I wanted to do.
And I accepted that maybe, despite my respectable efforts otherwise, I am a fucking hippie artist after all. One more statistically hopeful photographer-writer trying to triumph in spite of the hyphens; waiting to be published, dreaming of being discovered, yearning to be read. Just another cliche… and damn proud of it.