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You Are A Work Of Art

"Sometimes I just dont know how to be in the world."
My photo of John Peña’s exhibit defines authentic as “not false or copied; genuine; real.” As individuals, like our DNA, each of us is authentic in our genetic makeup although I believe external factors lead to our living a less than authentic life.

Living in a world where we are constantly reminded that we are flawed, then encouraged to avail ourselves of remedies to fix our imperfections, it’s no wonder our self-perception is distorted. Societal norms dictate that we put on our happy faces and go through the motions of life to mirror those perceived images of unattainable perfection that is incessantly broadcasted on a daily basis.

The other day one of my favorite drivers from the local para-transit service came by to transport me to a much-anticipated tour of the Mattress Factory (contemporary art museum). After the typical greetings his response to my answer on how was I doing disturbed me to the point where I had to do some serious introspection.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been under a dark cloud that I couldn’t seem to shake. I’ve been worried that my fading memory, lack of clarity along with confusion, might be due to early onset Alzheimer’s but when tossing in anxiety, fatigue, and overall apathy I know the cause of my issues.

So when I shared with my driver what I was going through he said “I never would have thought someone like you could experience thus and such. This led to an interesting discussion on how we are perceived by others.

I’m sure you’ve come across statements such as “everyone is going through something”, or “life isn’t easy” or “just because I smile doesn’t mean I’m at peace.” But here’s the thing we aren’t meant to walk this life alone.

The Mattress Factory is a unique museum in that the installation pieces (room-sized displays) engage all of the senses. This was an added bonus for members of our blind/low vision group as we were allowed to touch and experience the art unlike the typical museum. As our group breaks out into smaller segments, three of us head down the stairs with our tour guide.

Heavy bass vibrations from the recording “What Does It Mean?” could be felt before we reached the pitch black basement rooms of artist, Danny Bracken’s, four installations. The only light in the rooms was purposefully directed where the artist wanted to focus the visitor’s attention. Technology, nature, and sound were effectively used to allow visitors to temporarily merge with the exhibits.

Next stop was a quick elevator ride to the third floor. As the doors slid open we were met with a life-size speech bubble balanced on two by fours. On closer inspection the message on the bubble said “Sometimes I just don’t know how to be in the world.” It was on seeing this work by John Peña that I was struck by the irony of how this piece of art related to me.

With the exception of those afflicted with narcissism, (this would be a discussion all on its own) if we had the ability to see ourselves as others see us we could possibly understand our place in the world. On a personal level when I’m feeling fragile I struggle with allowing others in, as though I might be contagious but thankfully I have been blessed with a few good friends who genuinely care about my well-being. It’s during the down times that I can lean on these kind souls to share my burdens. Likewise, when these same individuals are similarly afflicted they can rely on me to share their load.

My faith and my friends are subtle reminders that I am not alone. Though I may not feel like smiling when facing the world, I smile because someone just may benefit from this small act of kindness.

“If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” ~ Maya Angelou

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