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I’m a Square Peg

I’m a square peg. Occasionally rectangular. Every so often, a triangle. But…never round – it seems. Regardless of my shape-shifting, my perception was always an ill fit. It’s gotten better with age. Gravity and experience have softened my edges, coming slightly closer to round I guess. In addition, I don’t care so much about being square. My oddities have turned out to be powerful. And some of the most interesting people I’ve met in life are the kind of people that my conservative Mother would refer to as “strange”. I have a different vocabulary. I appreciate their eccentricities and I applaud their bravery.

In my late 20’s (twenty years ago) I produced a hands-on arts festival in San Francisco. I made a lot of noise about cuts in arts education. It was an important issue. There were young square pegs out there that needed to communicate, damn it! When I look back with a bit more insight – it was likely not their well-being that drove me. I was aching for more square pegs; validation for my own odd shape. I needed to prove that I and all the other funny pegs were capable of great things. I did that, I think. I was successful. I rallied great artists, secured sponsorship by Haagen-Dazs and The Fort Mason Foundation, and threw a wildly fun event. I was written up in papers. I was invited to speak on cable TV shows (that was big stuff back then, very edgy). And, for the hundreds of kids that it touched, it was powerful. I know that.

It was a tremendously stressful time that was full of extreme work and anxiety. I had fears battling faith over my ability to pull it all off. I was young and I was trying to show the world what I could do. When I was in it, when the kids were there, I was fully alive. But when it was all said and done – the day after the event closed – I crashed like nobody’s business. The artists that I worked to surround myself with all went home. The kids went back to school. The press went away. And I was alone, wondering why I did it at all. Did I do it for the kids? Or did I do it for me? Was I trying to bring attention to the issue, or bring attention to myself? Did I want to find support for them, or for me?

I was the proverbial squeaky wheel. I have learned a few things over the years. That kind of noise inspires action, but the intent is to shut it up, not make it sing. You can cause a great stir, but the ripples might wash your community away. You can put yourself in the spotlight, but if you don’t share it, your hair will catch on fire, and that smells really bad. You can celebrate your squareness more fully if you’re not afraid to soften your edges once in a while. Community and the need for it will always exist. An egoless immersion into it will yield the highest return – membership.

I am in the throes of developing my career opus. A global project. The opportunities and anxiety of its production present themselves all over again. I will produce it this time with a similar thirst for community, but with a calmness and confidence that only age and experience has provided. I realized somewhere along the line that community comes in many forms. You must participate in it, and, reciprocally, it will provide more than just round holes.


5 Responses to I’m a Square Peg

That’s Kelly. Amazing woman discontent to continue her heartfelt endeavors without soul searching and learning from past experiences. A bit too hard on herself perhaps, questioning whether she can transcend her own ego and humanity in an effort to garner ever more for the good of the whole. Kelly has it all. Both Community and nourishment of her ego, hand in hand, guarantee her continual and increasing success. Self-examination is healthy; but abolish the whip. Without ego, there is no humanity. Kelly, the square peg, uniquely equipped by nature to genuinely think outside the box. That’s my opinion and I celebrate this artist.

Posted by Marla Burns · via · 118 months ago

Geez… I blush. Thanks Marla. “Without ego there is no humanity” – hmm. I will think on that a while. Ego is defined as a persons sense of self esteem or importance. I suppose if you do not value yourself, you will not be very effective at inspiring that feeling in others. This was a vulnerable blog to put out there. How do you say “I was driven by ego” when perhaps that is still the case? We wish our intentions to be more pure, and we pray that our efforts will prove themselves to be so. But still, bread needs to be on the table, and paint needs to be on the palette. Neither of these “luxuries” are free, so we must find a way to keep them there. If we can blend good will and ego, then we shall celebrate, and likely in fun company with above average wine. I will question my existence and ponder over it until the day I can no longer. Thank you for your post. You give me more to ponder…and paint.

Posted by kelly sullivan · via · 118 months ago

Yes, absolutely vulnerable and heartfelt response. Exposing yourself, questioning your motivation, aspiring to and praying that your intentions are pure, your integrity intact. Kelly, it seems to me that by engaging so ruthlessly in introspection, you’re demonstrating in and of itself, your pure and genuine nature. You worry about self-interest and then develop Finger Smears. A singular endeavor of collaboration. By definition, dependent upon the marriage of community and ego. I love Finger Smears, both in concept and in practice. An invitation reliant on community and partnership. The awareness that richness is a product of the whole. The generosity of it! Surely, Kelly, it exemplifies your mastery in blending good will and ego at its best. I want to see more of this art form; I want to see it everywhere. And finally, since when did bread on the table and the unbearable thirst to express your talent become luxuries? You frustrate me and take my breath away.

Posted by Marla Burns · via · 118 months ago

I miss seeing new posts of your gorgeous paintings! I always seem to relate to the thoughts you share as well… hope all’s well 🙂

Posted by Lisa · via · 116 months ago

Hi Lisa, thanks for the note. I MISS IT TOO!!!! I am consumed by the production of my latest project and find myself at the computer and on the phone for endless hours. I have not been into the studio to paint in over a month and it’s beginning to make me sad – but this project is so close to launch, and it has so much potential to be great – that I can’t seem to tear myself away, as there is ALWAYS one more thing that I need to do. I am at the computer now and I was giddy to see a post – it was like a flash from a too distant past. I miss it beyond words, but I can’t stop yet. Once I get it lined up and launched I will, if it is successfully funded, I will be able to travel, help inspire girls from all over the world, and paint, paint, paint. Oh, I get misty over the thought of it. Soon, soon. Thank you for the post. Check out what’s keeping me away

Posted by kelly sullian · via · 116 months ago


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