The Secret Artist #5 A Question of Value

Are you a Secret Artist? Do you believe in the creative process? Interested in learning more about the journey of this Secret Artist? Then please subscribe HERE!          

A Question of Value.

How do YOU measure your Self Worth?

My upcoming exhibition, And The Dark And The Dark, was the inspiration to begin this blog. In the first entry I declared, “Art exists in connection, not isolation”.  With confirmation of the exhibition, I made the decision to go “all in”, no more hiding, no more holding back.

exhibition publicity image

I’m noticing a very welcome increase in my confidence when I talk about my work. Yet I still detect some awkwardness when discussing the exhibition directly, I’ll often add something in at the end of a conversation like “What’s the point of having an exhibition any way?” As some kind of disclaimer, basically already apologizing for having an exhibition and for daring to ask you to come!

I have two weeks left to rectify this sad state of affairs. So what’s going on? Pressure. I think pressure comes from wanting approval and validation. I feel the pressure to demonstrate success. I want to sell my work.  A sale equals time to work in my studio. A sale brings opportunity; it will be easier for me to dive deeper into my new work. The equivalent of a green light or “pass go”. Therefor, understandably, it’s hard to remember that a sale does not equal my self worth or my value as an artist. So where do I find my value?

The more I promote the exhibition, and even as I write to you now, I feel a mounting sense of anxiety. My anxiety is that I’m creating expectation. My anxiety is that I won’t be able to ‘deliver’, that I will let people down, and that I will not be enough.

I have come far enough in my self learning to be somewhat objective about these feelings. I am aware this is not rational and definitely not new. This is a very old mental and emotional pattern. I am also aware that this is not about letting other people down, this is about me letting myself down. This is a battle I am having within myself.

I would guess most artists struggle with this when it comes to showing their work. We know our work has value for ourselves, but does our work have value for others?

To some artists a showing of their work may seem an unnecessary act of giving (their) power away to an other. However there is another point of view, as brought up by interesting point made in a comment posted on the blog last week relating to the work of Lewis Hyde:

“A work of art is not finished until it is shared. Like actually not complete. It needs the gaze of another to finish it”

Whatever an exhibition may or may not be, it is an offering, an offering to YOU.

As I prepare to offer my inner landscape to the outside world, and into current value systems over which I have zero control, I remember that the opportunity to worry about the unknowns of the exhibition process is an achievement in its self!

Not so very long ago the hope of having a body of art work ready to show anyone was virtually non existent. Back then I was more into self punishment than self application. I regularly felt lost and broken and would turn to film for escapism. These were the days of collecting DVD’s from Video Star and passing out to the blue glow of world cinema. But one night I found myself watching YouTube videos of people I found inspiring such as, Patti Smith, David Lynch, Kate Bush. I watched documentaries about artists, designers and filmmakers. Hungrily, I absorbed interviews, live performances, and any scrap I could find in quick succession one flowing into another; in a chain that didn’t break, a stream leading from one artist to another, the river did not run dry. Only after several days, with dry eyes, I pulled myself to shore to rest. I was tired but I had received nourishment: the dark abyss in my chest was now a glow. I had been set alight.

In the following days, I reflected upon the connecting force between all the artists I had encountered on my video marathon. They were all people connected with their art, their truth, and were being fully and unapologetically themselves. They all had the courage to say through their work “this is who I am.” This trail of inspiration suddenly felt like the only thing that mattered. I was reduced to one question: Do I dare to dream?

Joseph Campbell, in his book Pathways To Bliss, talks about finding your own way out of the dark woods as a metaphor for finding your calling: if the path is well trodden then it’s not your own and at some point we have to step off the beaten path with no ones footsteps to follow but our own.


I’m not sure if the trail of inspiration led me in to or out of the woods that day, but I certainly experienced a vital re-orientation of my life path. To answer the question regarding value and self worth in today’s ever growing pressure to succeed and achieve, we risk succumbing to the delusion of a one size fits all definition of success. It is important to remember that only we know how far we have come and, as we find our way on our individual journeys, the most important step might be to remember where we started.

See you next week.

Love and best wishes,


Gemma Kauffman’s practice encompasses a variety of strategies and media, which include painting, performance, installation and film. Theatrical and fantastical, her work is both compelling and dynamic. Kauffman is an advocate for the creative spirit of all people and has during the last 10 years pioneered transformative approaches to social engagement.

Are you a Secret Artist? Do you believe in the creative process? Interested in learning more about the journey of this Secret Artist? Then please subscribe HERE!          

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s