A Celebration: The Big Win

My artist statement states my belief that art is “beauty born of goodness and offered as a gift of love.” Increasingly, I have grown to understand that my art is really love made tangible. As an artist, I am a steward of beauty and hope, passing them out with intention.

Often, I create art to address brokenness or wounds in the culture I live in. Other times, I create art to offer healing to the invisible pain in the lives of others. At such times, I intended my work to be a balm of healing. Love involves caring for those who need compassion and empathy. So does art. But that is not the only time love is called for, nor is care the only form that love takes.

Sometimes we love by simply sharing joy; you can see this in my painting of the eastern meadowlark. Have you heard one sing? They explode with energy and joy and it makes you feel lighter just to hear their soundscape. They sing for the sake of singing. Beauty begets beauty; it resulted in joy bursting from my hands to paper.

Eastern MeadowLark

Last year, our high school formed a girls soccer team for the first time. Because the team was newly formed, their skills had not yet solidified. The coach is Denver Green. Adding to the challenges of a new team with a new coach, the team is small. Often there are only two or three girls to rotate in while the opposing team can have upwards of 7-10 extra girls. This means, our team must run continuously for a full hour and half, and their mental agility must remain acute. Unfortunately, the team lost every single game last year.

Coach Green and the girls could have been demoralized, but they weren’t. They continued to work hard despite their continued losses. And they grew their skills, and they let their relationships gel. They continue to play because they love to play. Rather than being a team of catty girls, Green taught them kindness and respect for each other.

My daughter is a freshman on the team this year. When her grandmother had a stroke and my husband and I unexpectedly flew to South Dakota, the whole team banded together giving her grace when she was emotional. They gave her a care package. Seniors made sure she had rides to and from practices and games. As other girls encountered difficulties I watched the team support them, too. I watched them blossom. But, despite all of their growth as players and as young women, it looked like they might have another full year of losing.

I wasn’t expecting them to win the game against Newfound. Yet, as one goal turned into two, the excitement became palpable. I found myself with a spark of hope in my throat; with intensity I watched them play their hearts out. I swelled with gladness and pride as the girls squealed for a full five minutes in their excitement at the close of the game when they realized they had won 3:1! Even Denver was jumping up and down! Happiness is contagious!

Sometimes love takes the form of joining in celebration with the people you care about. But here is the thing: celebration does not always feel comfortable. Sometimes it means dancing at weddings - even if you can’t keep a rhythm. Sometimes it means singing happy birthday - even if you are tone deaf. It can mean giving hugs and speeches - even if you aren’t touchy-feely or articulate. Joining in celebration is an act of letting go of your own insecurities and desires in order to focus your love on others.

I was asked to celebrate with this team I have grown to enjoy, with this coach I have grown to respect, and with my daughter who I love fiercely. The girls wanted a team portrait to celebrate their big win. It felt a bit awkward. I don’t paint people. I especially don’t paint sixteen people. People are hard to paint. Every line and curve matters - especially when painting faces. And I was painting in pastels, which does not lend itself to photo-realistic precision.

Over the years, I have struggled with perfectionism. From the get-go I was pretty nervous. I didn’t want to feel inadequate in my abilities as an artist. I want to be perfect. I say I don’t - that I am only human - but when push comes to shove, I really have an unhealthy desire for my work to be perfect. I don’t want to make something “craptastic”, so I mistakenly don arrogance with the use of that word and seperate myself from other artists. I cast judgment. I develop a false sense of self-worth. I misplace my identity.

In my mind, my work is never good enough - I am not good enough. As I painted this painting, I kept seeing my inadequacies and my lack of skill. I was particularly frustrated by how the faces were coming out. I was tempted to hide my work; I didn’t want the world to know what kind of artist I really am. Perfectionism is a crushing habit that tricks us into believing that inadequacy or lack of skill is synonymous with shamefulness. It destroys people by emotionally separating them out, isolating them and then suffocating them. But perfection is literally unattainable. Consequently, my twisted desires spiral into a mental self execution. It reminds me of the lyrics of the José González song Killing for Love.

What’s the point

If you hate, die and kill for love? (kill for love)

What’s the point with a love

That makes you hate and kill for?

You have a heart on fire

It’s bursting with desire

You’ve got a heart filled with passion

Will you let it burn for hate or compassion?

  • José González, “Killing for Love”

Will I feed hate for myself or compassion for others? While I do want to do my best and strive for growth and improvement, I do not want my art to be a narcissistic expression of self-grandeur. It is truly my desire to create beauty born of goodness and offer it as a gift in love.

The Big Win

I considered the words of the painter, Scott Erickson: “May my limitations be doorways to partnership and relationship rather than reasons to feel shame and be isolated.” That is what I choose. I choose to build relationships. So, with the purity of a small child with an imperfect picture and a dirt streaked smile, I join in celebration with my daughter and her teammates with an imperfect painting because my heart is bursting with joy for them. I join in celebration and offer this gift in gratitude to Coach Denver for pouring himself out to these girls. Though this work is far from flawless, it represents something far greater than even a perfect portrait could. It is excitement, joy and pride. It is a celebration.

Coach Denver Green receives The Big Win