The person who asked me this was a good friend and respected mentor of mine in the art world whom I visited once a week at an art gallery while my daughter was at ballet. When he inquired about my Pollyanna status, I was surprised and felt defensive for a moment b/c I sensed that the question wasn’t a compliment.
I really don't think it was a compliment.
For a split second, I had to think about it and then wonder as to why I would feel insulted by the question. I guess that the reason it took me by surprise is that I am a Pollyanna. I just had never thought about it in those terms before.
I ended up saying yes to his question and, after some consideration, eventually reveling in my answer.
Pollyanna - [pol-ee-an-uh]
–noun 1. an excessively or blindly optimistic person.
–adjective 2. ( often lowercase ) Also, Pol·ly·an·na·ish. unreasonably or illogically optimistic
Yes, yes, I guess I AM a Pollyanna….and proud of it! Well, I don't think I'm "illogically optimistic", but I do attempt to see look at the bright side as much as I can. I don't always accomplish this, but.....
I mean, how many Pollyanna’s are there out there? I’m a Pollyanna if I not only stay at home with my kids, but love staying at home and even love homeschooling? I’m a Pollyanna if I still unashamedly express my deep and abiding affection for my husband of 12 years? I’m a Pollyanna if I prefer skirts to daisy dukes? Honestly, I’m not tooting my own horn here b/c I’m fully aware of my many flaws, but why is being a Pollyanna such a bad thing? Didn’t Pollyanna win the day in the end by changing an entire town for good?
I was then informed, by this same person, that my art is “too innocent”. “You need to take the innocence out of your art,” I was told.
This was very puzzling to me. What constitutes innocent art and why is innocent art so bad? I’m certainly not suffering for sales. I can hardly keep up with all of my art contracts right now.
Then it hit me….I don’t paint nude people in horrendously awkward poses! My art doesn’t drip with anguished emotion or dark, images that are supposed to delve into something strange and existential.
My mentor pulls out some charcoal sketches of nudes…mostly women, laying around listlessly, naked. (On a side note, can I just observe that this is NOT reality...who has time to lay around naked? and in such funny poses! Sheesh! Not me!)
In all fairness, I can see his point. The human body is a difficult subject to master successfully and takes time and talent. Many of the ancient art masters spent years sculpting, painting and sketching the naked form, but must I? I felt awkward looking at these pictures, created by other male artists, of nude women in various contorted poses that would keep any chiropractor busy.
I spent some time considering these two things…Pollyanna and innocent art. Do I really want to sacrifice my morals so that I can be an edgy artist? Can’t I paint what inspires me? Things like my children on the beach, nature, light and portraits?
I am certainly not a Pollyanna in the sense that I don’t know the reality of pain and suffering. My life is no different than yours, my friend. Pain is a part of life, I have experienced my share and I’m absolutely positive there will be more to come. There is just a choice to look up, be cheerful and leave the worrying to a higher authority. (I don't always accomplish this...mind you.)
So, here I am. I’ve entered the intimidating, high and mighty, hoity-toity art world. Will I make it? Probably not. I really don’t have any desire to lay my morals on the altar of the weird, the ugly, the art that insults your senses and doesn’t satisfy the need for balance and beauty….basically the altar of artistic gallery success and fame.
There, I said it. Now all you art critics can collectively gasp in horror.
Will I paint nudes to sell more art? No. Modesty is modesty no matter which way you paint it. Will I sacrifice my “innocent” art to make more money? No. I paint what I love, what brings light to people, what is beautiful and inspiring.
Is it so bad to be content with the simple things in life, to be committed to one person only, to not desire fame and fortune and to be happy in my own modestly appareled skin?
Nope, nope and nope.
My next painting will be named "Pollyanna".