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The rantings and ramblings of Kimberly Allison

Monday, August 30, 2010

Exactly... what does an artist look like?

I was standing in front of my local thrift store, basking in the warm glow of people admiring my work. I had brought in a few samples for the shop manager to see, so she would know what I did and what supplies I was looking for. Quickly a small crowd had gathered and my work was getting the "oooh and Ahh" treatment. We artists live for this moment. Then the comment came, unexpected, like sitting on a loud woopie cushion at a proper English tea.

"Wow! These are amazing! I had no idea you were so talented. You just don't LOOK like an artist!

Rapidly, I felt the glow leave me and be replaced by a prickle of irritation. I drew upon my 20+ years of customer service training to thank her for her kindness while hiding my annoyance.

As I packed away my work and left the store, I had to ask myself. What, exactly, does an artist really look like?

Is it like my art friend Valerie Bailey? A fiesty senior citizen, she wears her long white hair in a tidy braid. Her long flowing skirts are in a crazy quilt of satin and velvet, topped by a dark hat.

Is it like my art friend Pam Pitts? By far one of the best lampwork artists I have ever met, Pam's tiny frame is accented in baseball caps, blue jeans and hippie-chic tye-dye t-shirts. This suits her fave phrase of "Far out!"

Is it my Art Friend Debi Beard? Pretty and petite, she looks wonderful in soft and romantic vintage clothes. A class act.

Or, is it my favorite Rottengirl Keri Stanton? Her exotic features accentuated in a Gothic "Alice in Wonderland' dress.

My point is: exactly what the hell is an artist supposed to LOOK like?

I made a decision a while back that I no longer owed anyone a specific "look" to suit their views of what I should be. At fourty-freakin'-four I have earned that right. Granted, I never show up at a show in a t-shirt and sloppy shorts (I have seen it folks!) but neither do I feel I need to try to totter across a grassy yard, setting up a 10 by 10 canopy while waring 4 inch heels. My plus-size frame deserves comfort these days. As a former hairstylist, I have smelled enough chemicals to know that there is glory in salt-and-pepper hair and I wear my white streaks proudly. I enjoy wearing something offbeat to give the element of surprise, like showing up at a 4th of July show with an electric blue wig. But, I am just as home in a simple dress with my hair pulled back into a ponytail.

So, I have to ask. Does the dress make the artist? Or does the artist wear the dress?


  1. Perhaps a nose ring, hairy legs and head-to-toe tattoos would have fulfilled this woman's expectations? Oh puh-leeze!

  2. Fun post Kim!
    People are so strereotypical.
    Emily LOVES her Octopus.
    Need to get one from you for her for Christmas.