Surviving the Arts with Anxiety

Artist Wit López leads virtual workshop through the Owens Art Gallery

    I was first introduced to Wit López and their work when they joined this year’s virtual Sweetest Little Thing as a guest artist. I was initially drawn to Wit López not just because of our mutual nonbinary-ness but also because of how multifaceted their art is. According to their Instagram bio, López is a “multidisciplinary maker, performance artist, writer, photographer, and cultural advocate,” and their art is really cool. On March 15, López hosted a fantastic workshop through the Owens Art Gallery made specifically for 2SLGBTQ+ creatives, called Surviving the Arts with Anxiety.

    The workshop was not a lecture by any means, but more of a space to openly and honestly discuss how anxiety can affect different artists and art practices. López fostered an informal, safe space where anyone was welcome to bring up any topic or question they wanted, and López would provide advice. Their first activity for the members of the workshop was for us to identify places where anxiety might show up in our artistic/performance process, and to share them with the group if we felt so inclined. López talked about how a great way to remain creative when anxiety rears its ugly head during your art making is to take a break from whatever project you are working on. Try to create something outside of what you usually do, like crochet as a break from your painting project.

    We also discussed how audiences treat performers/artists. The world can be a hostile place for people who fall outside of societal norms (in regards to gender, sexuality, race, etc.), but you have to remember that your identity is valid, and no one knows you better than you know yourself. Another way in which López wanted to make sure everyone at the workshop felt validated was by reminding us that everyone belongs in the arts, regardless of how much formal training you have or haven’t had. Just as you are the biggest expert on your identity, you are also the biggest expert on you and your work! 

    “If other people say that they want to see something from your work, they should be making that work instead of demanding it from you,” remarked López. Not only is everyone an expert on their own art, but also on their own art practice. Whatever you decide to do with your art, and whether you decide to showcase it or not, does not make you any more or less valid as an artist.

    On the theme of self-care and self-love, a quote of López’s that really stuck with me was when they said, “don’t reject yourself first,” in response to a question about the anxiety around applying for grants or performance opportunities.

    Towards the end of the workshop, López asked each of us to write haikus (that didn’t have to follow the 5 – 7 – 5 syllable structure per line, but did have to be exactly 17 syllables total) that opened with the line “my survival is.” My haiku was “My survival is / community and connection / with all my loves,” and that’s what made López’s workshop so special to me; its focus not only on self-care and self-love, but also on community care and mutual support.

    “You can survive and thrive in the arts!” López said, “We are artists who are tired of being abused in the arts; we can and will thrive.”  

    López’s work is currently on display at the Owens as part of the The Baroness Elsa Project exhibition, which “reaches back a century to bring elemental traces of the radical art, poetry and personage of Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven” into conversation with the work of eight contemporary artists.

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