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  • Claudia Guerra

What it means to be a painter...i'm not really sure

Besides all of the other mishaps that come with self-discovery, when I started college, declaring myself as an artist felt like the epitome of hubris. I could never quiet introduce myself as a photographer or a painter, it made me feel uncomfortable and excessively self-assured.


Further into the art program I was attending, I was constantly plagued with doubts of my abilities as an artist. I was way passed the point of questioning my authenticity as a creator, now I was questioning my abilities. I was overwhelmed by the hierarchy in the department, where certain art forms were perceived as superior than others. I felt confined by the labels within academic structure. Students were recommended to choose a focus area or several, that were relevant to our art practice. I found that my work constantly shifted because of the importance placed on them. I prioritized the art practices I perceived to be taken more seriously.


I felt inspired by some professors that denounced narrow forms of academia and this obsessive desire to categorize and catalogue everything. Not until I was able to express myself in a looser and more abstract way, did I begin to really evolve. I wasn’t just painting something pretty; I was saying something…I was creating what felt like magic. I was drawn to the idea of creating something that was unappealing, bordering on grotesque because I was suffocated by what was visually and technically beautiful and sound. I discovered more through the process than I did with the result. I was fueled by emotions — splattering thick blobs of paint onto the canvas was more fulfilling than having a steady hand. I look at the work I was making and see progress paired with dissatisfaction, and that was where I wanted to be.


With painting, it’s always been more of a challenge for me, it felt forced at times. My rocky relationship with painting stems from my impatience, especially when it comes to my work. That’s why with photography it is unfailingly gratifying because of its immediacy; the work is in front of me, I just have to compose and adjust, it’s always been more natural for me.


It’s all about starting right, getting the ball rolling?


Whenever I paint I feel energized and as if the crushing weight of my existence is channeled into something cathartic —and I feel understood.


Cuban artist, Ana Mendieta, said that her turning point was in 1972, when she realized her paintings weren’t “real enough” for what she wanted to communicate, and by real she was referring to her desire to make her work powerful, she wanted it to convey magic.


What if this is my turning point?


As I become more confident, I realize that being an artist can mean anything, not just the traditional sense of the word. This led me to take on the identity of an artist with great stride. I pride myself in being someone who can create narratives and touch on topics I feel need to be addressed. By identifying myself as just one thing, I am forced to carry the weight of that specific medium. For now, I feel comfortable just being a multimedia artist, because of this I won’t have that burden. I can just be.