A Room of Her Own
It's not easy for anyone to mark the moment of realization: "Now! I've become an artist." Especially in a case like mine (I never majored in art or got a degree in it), becoming an artist might seem to have happened by accident. A colleague at the University of Michigan once told me that it wasn't for him (or me) to say whether either of us was an artist - that the definition/
designation of who is an artist comes from outside oneself, from the recognition by art historians, critics, and the like. I thought that's all very well for him to say; men are expected to dedicate themselves to vocations and avocations, but even as a young woman, I had to take myself seriously as an artist in order to allow myself the time, money, and space for my art. In fact, looking back, I think it was that very "allowing" more than anything else that defined me as an artist; I built a darkroom and, later, a studio when I could have fixed up a kitchen.
I have taken time for my art even when that took time away from activities traditionally considered the province of women: friendships, housekeeping, maternal roles, activities for social good. Even before I knew her writings, I somehow understood Virginia Woolf's concept of a "A Room of One’s Own" and that the designation "artist" is not in the first place an honor one earns after years of work; it's an attitude and a goal one takes on in order to get where one is going.
© 2007 Joanne Leonard
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