Have you ever been skinny dipping with a group? Presenting art to the public is a bit like standing naked in a crowd. You hold your head high and pretend you are comfortable with everyone examining your stuff. All your curves and lines are on display, all your textures and colors, all the parts you’ve molded, the parts you tried to make strong, the sections you’re not thrilled with but you leave alone. You stand and declare yes, this is me in all my glory. It can be scary.
It doesn’t help when right before you are about to show a piece, you puncture the canvas. There was an accident at home and my painting of an old woman got a hole in her forehead. The painting is 30”x40” and the tear was right in the middle. It was a blemish I couldn’t hide.
I’ve never fixed a tear in canvas before. So first, I held myself a little pity party (I seriously didn’t have time for this!) Then, I snapped out of it and got to work. I scrambled to paint something new for the show since there was no way I’d get it repaired in time. In my mind, I wanted to repair it so that you couldn’t see any evidence of the accident. I asked around and some friends offered suggestions of how to make a canvas patch. They offered advice and sympathy and I was grateful to have people in my community willing to help me.
One friend suggested something a little different than what I was asking for. He told me, “It adds character. Just like a broken tooth.” He said I should rip it up properly or try adding gold paper that you glue on over the tear.
It reminded me of the Japanese practice of Kintsugi, meaning “to patch with gold.” This centuries old art of repairing broken ceramics uses a special lacquer mixed with gold, silver, or platinum. The seams of shining metal in the pottery emphasize the fractures instead of hiding them. The artist preserves the history of the piece and the pottery shards and the beautiful lines of repair transform the art into something “better than new.” Kintsugi is used as a metaphor for life, that we may find new beauty in our “faults,” and find that we can love our imperfections. It is a way to embrace ourselves and those around us not despite our flaws, but including them. They are part of everything that makes us who we are.
I have a choice to make, with my art and my life. How many of my faults can I embrace? Can I transform an old woman into something better than new? Will people still like what I put on display? Does it matter in the end? So many questions… and my only answer is that I have time to figure it all out. If I’m willing to search for the silver (or gold) lining.