Even though I have absolutely nothing to hide, I get a little nervous every time I go through security at the airport. I’ve followed all the rules: my shoes are in the bin, all my liquids–under 3 oz. each–are labeled and stashed in a quart-size Ziploc bag, my laptop is out of my tote, and my boarding pass and ID are in hand, ready to be inspected. Still, it’s an uncomfortable experience. I hold my breath as I watch my carry-on travel down the conveyor belt into the x-ray eyes of the TSA agents. There’s always that gut-wrenching fear that I’ve inadvertently done something wrong, and the realization that I could be singled out–pulled from the security line and publicly frisked like a common criminal. I try to make eye contact with the TSA agent to assure him I’m a good person. Should I smile? Engage in a little small talk? Toss around some witty banter? But in the end, I make the wise decision to remain stoic while total strangers analyze and evaluate me. They glare, grimace, whisper, and point as they scrutinize my personal possessions. On my Artist’s Journey, this same degrading experience is known as a ‘critique’.
Just like security, the ‘critique’ is a necessary evil to ensure a safe and successful journey. It keeps us in line, lets us know if we’re on track, and helps us see issues with our work. In the studio, we don’t have TSA agents, conveyor belts, or x-ray machines, but we do have a large wall where we display our work while our classmates and professor critique it with trained eyes. My work is always completed on time. It’s neat and as accurate as I can manage. I make sure to use the assigned medium and materials. I have invested time, effort, and heart in my work, and it’s hard to see it judged. I wince as my fellow artists dissect my color choices, technique, and style. Some make harsh criticisms, while others make honest assessments. Sometimes there is dead silence, and other times, there are genuine, heartfelt compliments.
Like any seasoned traveler, I follow the rules. I show up on time, pin my work to the wall, and hope to sail through the critique so I can continue on my journey. Just like in the security line, I resist the urge to soften any upcoming blows with conversation or a smile. I stand tall, knowing I’ve done my personal best. And if a few stinging criticisms and sideways glances are tossed in among a sprinkling of sincere compliments, it isn’t so bad. Besides, there’s only one way to get on the plane that will carry me to my next destination, and that means going through security. Even when there’s a long line, a quibbling TSA agent, or a problem with my luggage, I will survive the experience and get beyond the critique wall–for I know there’s an amazing adventure waiting on the other side.
My most recent series on the critique wall in the studio at Valencia College