Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Failed Artist


The Dream: I'm with my mother and two friends. We start to head up to my walk-up apartment. As we are climbing the stairs I say to my mother, “I guess you're wondering why I always live in a 5th floor walk-up?” I mean this as a joke on the effort the stairs require, but it's not actually a negative to me. “Not at all,” says my mother. “It's because you are a failed artist.”

I'm stung by this, but don't feel I can deny the truth of it. I would have preferred she acknowledge the accomplishment of what I've achieved—a certain level of skill, undeniably--than to focus on my utter lack of commercial success. Then too, I don't think commercial success is what I'm after. Nevertheless, I see the career building strategies of a successful artist friend in a new light. It least she isn't seen as a failure.

Mother collapses onto the floor, and I'm afraid the effort of climbing the stairs has given her a heart attack. I bend over her, very concerned, but not ready to call the paramedics: her color looks good and I think she'll snap out of it. I feel, once the crisis has past, that I owe my friends an explanation. “I've been through this so many times before,” I say.

My friends give me gifts. One is a fused glass piece, a tube sprouting a plant. It's roots are in the tube; an exotic flower drapes out.

Interpretation: Ha! My conundrum in a nutshell: one part of me, the internalized critical mother, wants to know why I'm not a commercial success. In our culture money equals value, and if you can't show a profit you and your product must be worthless. Another part, the one that is happy to live on a higher level and doesn't mind the difficulty that entails, sees my art making as a spiritual practice and has no interest in monetizing it, only wants a bit of recognition for what she's accomplished. My critical mother collapses from the effort of the ascent, but I know she'll revive. After all, I've been through this many times.

The friends, protectors of my calling, give me a work of art: nature transformed into a glass object that could last--or might just as easily break.

3 comments:

Enily said...

What a beautiful dream and gift from friends! I did a little checking into symbols of the Self, and although I haven't found any about glass or flowers, these flowers seem to be representative of the Self. They are mandala shaped, and the purple of the vase suggests to me a higher spiritual Self. The gift also seems to integrate the male and female aspects, especially if looked at in Freudian terms: the phallic vase and the feminine flowers. Also, the glass is "fused" which is synonymous with "marriage", a very powerful Jungian concept. Despite my critical mother aspect, I am able to maintain the core of my being, the core of Self.

Emily said...


What a beautiful dream and gift from friends! I did a little checking into symbols of the Self, and although I haven't found any about glass or flowers, these flowers seem to be representative of the Self. They are mandala shaped, and the purple of the vase suggests to me a higher spiritual Self. The gift also seems to integrate the male and female aspects, especially if looked at in Freudian terms: the phallic vase and the feminine flowers. Also, the glass is "fused" which is synonymous with "marriage", a very powerful Jungian concept. Despite my critical mother aspect, I am able to maintain the core of my being, the core of Self.

Carla Young said...

Emily expands the meaning of the dream by looking at art as a metaphor for life. The fused flower becomes a conjunctio, a union of opposites that signals transformation toward a more integrated self.

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