“Make it clear to everybody else what I meant.” Lorraine further states, “the whole point of wanting to be an artist was to find out who I was.” These are the words of Lorraine O’ Grady, Caribbean-American Artist quoted in an article by New York Magazine with the caption, “Just Watch Me.” “More Than Four Decades Into Her Trailblazing Career, Lorraine O’ Grady Finally Has the World’s Attention.”
At 86 years old, Lorraine O’ Grady, ‘finally has the world’s attention.’ So as to not be misconstrued as being biased towards an Afro-Caribbean-American Artist, as I am a Caribbean woman, this article was shared with me by one of my mentors, a woman who is ethnically and racially different than I am, of whom I have known for 15 years.
So, my mentor says this, “she is my new hero.” Of course, I asked her why and she responds, “I love her courage and willingness to move forward no matter the obstruction.”
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE
I am thinking— it took her 40 years for her art to be noticed and her voice to be heard! Prior to this exchange between my mentor and me, I did not know who Lorraine O’ Grady was, hence, this thought floored me: “The You Nobody Sees But You!
There is not a woman or man, boy or girl, who innately does not feel a pull to be significant or make a contribution that is significant in some way that impacts who they are and others around them.
That part of you that cries inside– that feels unbridled tossed to and fro. The part that is disquieted that wants to be reassured and told you are good enough even though it’s a slow go.
The voices and critics outside don’t matter, even the silent ones– or at least they should not. Often, these voices become our self-talk. Perhaps it’s that restless you, flux without form that will take shape as long as you continue to pursue.
“I was very much afraid, but I said to the King…”
This pursuit of greatness, success, or significance is elusive— cannot seem to be pinned down. What do you call it? Lorraine O’Grady calls it “to find out who I was.” It comes in waves — at times calm then boisterous.
What can tame this pursuit? Or should it be? There are so many voices and outlets telling you what success is or should look like. But, how many will tell you what it is not. It is not accepting the status quo, it is not listening to those societal and cultural voices that seek to give only one world view, which I don’t think will fill that space of our essence appropriately.
YOU ONLY HAVE TO BE SCARED 20 SECONDS AT TIME
What to do? Do I or do you, continue this pursuit or abandon ship. In a world where you try to find a place for your voice but it seems like you are not relevant, surrendering or retreating seems to be the answer. What are who authorizes this notion?
Known for “crashing” exhibitions, Lorraine O’Grady “crashed” another art opening for a New Museum that featured nine white contemporary artists to show their work whereas she was invited to participate in the education program aspect of the show.
This practice of excluding Black, female artists are said to be prevalent during the early ’70s and ’80s
Greatness is seen only one way or from only one perspective most times, especially in today’s culture. Namely, having material possessions, power and influence.
None or all of these are “bad.” From a creationist perspective, the Bible references individuals with this kind of success. How they achieved it and what it meant to them is even more appealing to me. Would we glean that what mattered most to Lorraine O’Grady was power, material possessions, or influence?
This “thing” success, greatness, significance seem to have requirements. The requirements could be said to be general or universal but unique to each person’s voice. Persistence in the face of being invisible was an apparent requirement. She says this, “I always felt nobody knew my story, but if there isn’t any room for my story then it wasn’t my problem.” It was theirs.”
Often times greatness–significance is viewed from the outside and not the inside– that deep part of us. This part is sacred, and for some of us, the spiritual part that completes the human being’s essence.
Michael White (1996) illustrates this point well stating that the intentional parts of us are pivotal to the significance that is ours. He says this:
“intentional state categories like purposes, aspirations, quests, hopes, dreams, visions, values, beliefs, and commitment.” Attached to these are a range of conclusions people have about their own identity which lends itself to what significance is given to specific events of people’s lives which influences the actions people take and shape their lives.”
Recognizing this or having this understanding changes my attitude and mindset towards my work, goals, and passion. In my 15-year-old daughter’s words, “mom I feel like you are doing God’s work.” My faith in God is activated and I am encouraged each time my story impacts the work I do. Somehow, inside I am at peace as I sense His guidance and commendation.
No doubt our passion and desires were deposited– for some along the way and for others a long time ago. This, I believe, is the impact of the spiritual essence. There is a growing body of research that shows the impact of the inclusion of spirituality in psychotherapy. I would be re missed to not acknowledge that some persons are skeptical or feel uncomfortable with the term “God.”
“It was not always plain to me that pursuing God’s glory would be virtually the same as pursuing my joy. Now I see that millions of people waste their lives because they think these paths are two and not one.”
Belief in someone or something bigger or outside of the self is a conduit to channel those inner sacred parts of your person. So then, is this about success, greatness, or who you are purposed to be? He gives purpose and meaning to these desires, goals, and passion.
There is no need to walk or pursue them aimlessly or in dubious consent– even if it takes 4 decades. At 86 years old, embarking upon the path of being an artist at 48 years old, it is said that Lorraine O’Grady “did not ask anyone for permission or wait for that to be granted; she accorded that power to herself.” Needless to say, Lorraine O’Grady is now one of my heroes! You can connect with her work here:
“Is anything too hard for the Lord?’