Photos by Madeline True
The concept of authenticity and what it means to be "authentic" is a topic of conversation that begins in the early evening, before light fades into the dark of the night to bring out the gallery's illumination. There is a sense that authenticity is an illusion, perhaps even a lie given social norms that almost everyone follows for social acceptance and survival. True authenticity promotes complete acceptance of all personality fragments and conflicting selves and eliminates the shame and negativity of the lessor or shadow selves.
Yet shame and negativity are never and can never be eradicated, making authenticity an impossible construct that only the lucky few can come close to achieving. Shame and negativity result from traumas that wound the soul and these traumas are inevitable in life. Social norms demand concealment of these traumas in daily personal interactions and for good reason as the very stigma of trauma creates social discomfort that diminishes productivity. Airing shame and negativity is best done in supportive social environments that allow grappling with our demons.
Artists are generally placed at the forefront of authenticity and exist under social pressure to display this trait in their artwork and/or personality. Outdated social and cultural misconceptions about artists dictate that artists uncover the shadow and critique the social and cultural norms that constrain our freedom. The true artist purportedly casts aside market pressures to uncover the next phase of human progress. Never mind that the market place dictates the value of art in the same manner as anything else: supply and demand. Any value from authenticity has more to do with hype and predominant trends than actual quality.
Yet authenticity existed in the very moment we critiqued it, in the way we shared our experiences as artists on the lush grass in front of the gallery. We expressed our real selves in our critique and the gallery, with its grassroots aesthetic and local art served as a fitting backdrop for our temporary authenticity. It was a moment of freedom and at the same time, connection between artists and kindred spirits.