What are you afraid of? 12

I’m participating in Fun-a-Day 2014, a daily art challenge through the month of January, committed to do a daily post here detailing some Big Art Idea or project that looms somewhere out in my future.

One of my advisors asked me a series of rhetorical questions encouraging me to explore new areas in my art. In the next several posts, I want to address them as if they were asked literally. The first question she asked me was

What are you afraid of?

With regard to my art? To my MFA work? To my art career? Seriously, where do I start?

IMG_0477

  1. I’m afraid of getting involved with something “just this quarter” and then waking up a decade from now the expert on something I couldn’t care less about.
  2. I’m afraid of being assigned to work on group projects that seem dumb.
  3. I’m afraid of becoming some faculty’s lackey on a project I don’t believe in.
  4. I’m afraid of doing the same old thing.
  5. I’m afraid that after graduate school I will be in the same position, falling back upon the same boring stuff.
  6. I’m afraid of going deeply into debt or poverty during grad school.
  7. I’m afraid of not using my time wisely.
  8. I’m afraid of not taking enough chances in school.
  9. I’m afraid of taking stupid chances and wasting my time.

31124Edward Gorey “Gashlycrumb Tinies” www.edwardgoreyhouse.org

  1. I’m afraid of having more student loans when I am still paying off tens of thousands on loans from my undergraduate degree twenty years ago.
  2. I’m afraid of choosing the wrong people for my thesis committee.
  3. I’m afraid of moving my work in the wrong direction.
  4. I’m afraid of being too directed and not allowing curiosity to guide my work.
  5. I’m afraid of being one of those artists who sells their stuff at craft faires.
  6. I’m afraid of working at Starbucks.
  7. I’m afraid that years from now, I will still be doing only local shows.
  8. I’m afraid of not working hard enough.
  9. I’m afraid of burning out, like a love affair in which I just had to work too hard.
  10. I’m afraid my artistic interests will take me down avenues that are considered quaint and old-fashioned.
  11. I’m afraid that the choices I make will close doors rather than open them, the principle reason I am in grad school.

death_of_a_cyborg_by_shorra-d35io35Shorra “Death of a Cyborg” www.shorra.com

Reading through my list of fears, I see a generalized fear of artistic death. I’m not afraid to die, but perhaps the circumstances seem significant. Who minds going out in a blaze of glory? Looking at the above list, I can extract some generalized fears:

  • Death by boredom.
  • Death by frustration.
  • Death by stagnation.
  • Death by wasting away.
  • Death in debtors prison.
  • Death by inertia.
  • Death in a hail of bullets while robbing a liquor store to pay my student loans.
  • Death by self-immolation.
  • Death by faint praise.

There you go. A huge list of things you can bring up embarrassingly at a party or to which you can attribute whatever anti-social behavior I exhibit. “Oh, you don’t want to see that movie with me? Oh, I know, it’s because you’re afraid of taking chances and wasting your time.”

UPDATE: New fears!

  1. I’m afraid that any “meaningful art” I do will merely be pedagogical rather than actually doing anything. I have serious skepticism about whether art (or activism) that focuses on “educating people” actually does anything except make the artist feel good.

12 thoughts on “What are you afraid of?

  1. Reply Rick Eagle Jan 8,2014 12:30 pm

    Wow, with a few edits, I could use your list.

  2. Reply Jester Jan 9,2014 12:44 am

    I love you dearly, and I think this expression is missing some important points.

    Point One: You shouldn’t have let the environment you were in build a box around your answers. I don’t believe that all your fears revolve around art.

    I’m afraid of getting involved with something “just this quarter” and then waking up a decade from now the expert on something I couldn’t care less about.

    No one who knows you believes this fear is real. You would never go so deep into something as to become an expert in it if it was not an amazing thing. You’re not some bored nobleman stuck in a stoic victorian community, you are surrounded by exciting things. Boring things that capture you for 10 years are not possible.

    I’m afraid of being assigned to work on group projects that seem dumb.

    Poor little Wes. Stop being afraid of this, this will happen. Hopefully, you’ll find a way to make them not seem dumb. If that doesn’t happen, keep working on being a better artist and some day you will succeed in making them not seem dumb.

    I’m afraid of becoming some faculty’s lackey on a project I don’t believe in.

    We’re all very afraid that you’ll put all your energy into something you disagree with. Yeah, because we’re talking about “Anti-Wes” right?

    I’m afraid of doing the same old thing.

    One point for you.

    I’m afraid that after graduate school I will be in the same position, falling back upon the same boring stuff.

    Too close to the last one. One half point for you.

    I’m afraid of going deeply into debt or poverty during grad school.

    Afraid of it? You either are or you’re not. You should know by now which one it is.

    I’m afraid of not using my time wisely.

    And you’re up to 2.5 points.

    I’m afraid of not taking enough chances in school.

    Hard to believe… I’ll give you .01 points, in case there is ever a tie, this breaks it in your favor.

    I’m afraid of taking stupid chances and wasting my time.

    3.51 points.

    I’m afraid of having more student loans when I am still paying off tens of thousands on loans from my undergraduate degree twenty years ago.

    You’re afraid of reality? You either do or do not have more student loans. You’re not going to suddenly have twice as much in loans without having signed a contract.

    I’m afraid of choosing the wrong people for my thesis committee.

    I’m afraid you won’t chose the wrong people for your thesis committee.

    I’m afraid of moving my work in the wrong direction.

    You were so close to solving world hunger, then you started making interactive websites that your smartass friends could comment upon. Sigh. I’m sorry.

    I’m afraid of being too directed and not allowing curiosity to guide my work.

    Like the rest of the world?

    I’m afraid of being one of those artists who sells their stuff at craft faires.

    This is the best one. Two points. 5.51 points total.

    I’m afraid of working at Starbucks.

    Meh, this leads into a “I’m better than that” vein. Part of me (as someone who worked at Starbucks) wants to say “fuck you”. Part of me wonders why working at Starbucks is so bad for you.

    I’m afraid that years from now, I will still be doing only local shows.

    Worded incorrectly. You can definitely do a show outside of SC. You know enough people to make that happen. What you should be afraid of is not “making it”, or not being recognized on a nation/state or multi-nation/multi-state basis.

    In a way it sounds like you’re afraid of not winning the lottery. Ok, fine. Another half point.
    6.01 points.

    I’m afraid of not working hard enough.

    Too easy to pick on daddy issues. You work hard. Everyone feels the same thing you’re expressing here, and everyone knows it.

    I’m afraid of burning out, like a love affair in which I just had to work too hard.

    Oh, suddenly after a few decades you’re not going to be an artist anymore? Is this fear based on an elementary understanding of quantum phsysics? Like you might also be afraid of falling through the earth?

    I’m afraid my artistic interests will take me down avenues that are considered quaint and old-fashioned.

    That would be kinda awesome. You should do that.

    I’m afraid that the choices I make will close doors rather than open them, the principle reason I am in grad school.

    Meh. We never get a chance to go back in time and made a different choice. We’ll never really know if any action opens more doors than it closes. Also, you’re a door opening person. You fart and a door opens.

    Overall, you listed 20 fears, and I only believe that 6.01 of them were real.

    Stop lying, tell us what you’re really afraid of.

    (Hope the tone and logorrhea of this are well recieved. I love you lots and felt like responding to your art. “Fear” is one of my things.)

    • Reply wmodes Jan 9,2014 10:20 am

      No, all real. Some more present than others. Thanks for the generous 6.01 points.

      There’s some repetition, of course, with fears that feel more present. Money and poverty fears for instance, since at the moment, I can’t afford the gas to drive to school, let alone buy books. I don’t plan to take student loans, but would I sacrifice my house to stay in school? I don’t think so. I don’t mind eating only beans and rice for a few years, though one of my goals as a practicing artist is that I will be comfortably solvent.

      I know there are things that you can’t imagine The Wes That You Know doing, but part of The Wes That You Know is having these worries and reacting to them. You can’t imagine me doing the Same Old Thing, but I worked at the university library for eight years because it was decent job that paid decently well working with decent people, and though I was good at what I did, it was far from what I dream of doing for a living. So some worries that seem far out there are still quite real.

      There is nothing wrong with working at Starbucks. I’ve worked in shitty food service and think it is something that everyone should do to teach empathy with service workers and teach humility. I used Starbucks as a symbol of what happens to artists who don’t succeed and also refuse to do that thing that they are good at but don’t want to fall back on.

      These were just fears around art and career. Around other subjects, I have many more worries.

      I don’t feel that I am particularly guided by fears, but new experiences (like grad school) bring worries to the surface.

      • Reply Jester Jan 9,2014 5:27 pm

        “there are things that you can’t imagine The Wes That You Know doing”

        Listen buddy, don’t you start warping the superhero vision I have of you. For one thing, you look really hot in tights. Also, we all need to have little idols. You ruin this for me and I’ll end up declaring a holy war on something you love.

        Maybe pickle jars. How would you like it if I just went around destroying pickle jars?

  3. Reply Jester Jan 9,2014 12:45 am

    Dammit, I got distracted.

    Point two was that I didn’t believe your list. I don’t believe that this list is accurate or complete.

  4. Reply Brent Jan 21,2014 8:47 pm

    I agree with Jester — you’re not really afraid of most of these.

    4, 7, 21 are the ones that ring loudly to me.

  5. Reply Shadow Mar 28,2014 12:08 am

    The terrifying thing is that many of these fears don’t seem like fears that are escapable, no matter where you move to in your life or riotous success you find. I suppose one has to make peace with them uneasily, and try to not let them guide the hand.

    • Reply wmodes Apr 5,2014 3:30 pm

      So true. Most of these are the fears of every artist, or every person living a full, self-examined life.

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