A Dramatic Failure / by Hannah Harley

Okay. Confession time. 

I've spent two months of my blood, sweat, and tears producing "a dramatic failure." 
Whoops. 

My first two months of graduate school have been marked with a seemingly unending stream of chaos. And as I finish the punchline on this crazy summer, I'm grateful for the failures. 

In my undergraduate career, ideas came so quickly that I seemed to overrun by them. I had concepts constantly in the works and creative teams to help me realize them. In just four months, I created Portraits of Ex-Lovers, Homicide, Love in the Digital Agethe Uncomfortable Piece and began work on Untitled (Pornography). It was an insanely productive time, and I reveled in the creative environment that had spurred this production. And when I was faced with the start of my MFA program, I had seemingly run out of ideas. 

So I'm staring into this creative void, desperate to make work and dedicated to working hard at it. I've poured myself into processes that have yielded unexpected failures. 

My frustration with this lack of successful images and the difficulties of adjusting to New York has lead me to create confused imagery that seems not to follow a coherent line of thought. I've been trying to figure out how to best explain this all to the wonderful friends and family who continuously say, "We expect great things from you!" or "Can't wait to see what you do in New York!". These sentiments directly conflict with the weekly critiques from my professors and classmates, who have cited my summer work as "a dramatic failure." 

Sure, I came to New York and to graduate school to succeed and to create successful images. But it is not through success that we grow - it is through the dramatic failures. I've tried new techniques. I've gotten out of my comfort zone. I've experimented, I've played. I've made a mess. I've tested new processes and new ways of thinking. I've challenged myself and failed over and over again. I've cried in bathrooms, hallways, studios, and even once, I cried on the sidewalk. I've made ugly images and boring images, and I've sure made a lot of them. I've allowed myself the freedom to explore, and I've had to work hard at being okay with failing. I've come to realize that the more spectacular the failure, the more intense the growth. And while I still have a lifetime to prove this theory, I fully expect that this process will continue to prove itself over and over again. 

Every creative pours themselves into their work. Sometimes, it's awesome. Sometimes, it's hell. 

Countless sayings remind us that it's not how often you fall down, but how often you get back up. And I'm on my feet, a little more confused than I was at the start, but I'm ready for whatever failures I bum into next. Ready to continue to hone the freedom that comes with failure-friendly artistic exploration. 

I hope you're failing spectacularly and dramatically, my friends. 

 

See the work that inspired this post here

 Self portrait (Crying), 14 July 2016  Disclaimer for my grandma (when my dad prints this out and gives it to her) - I am not actually  failing  grad school. I'm just making artwork that isn't my best work. I am, of course, going to all my classes and working extremely hard. I haven't become involved in drugs or other risky business. Although I did move Brooklyn, which so far has no more crime than Manhattan with the added benefit of significantly cheaper coffee. 

Self portrait (Crying), 14 July 2016

Disclaimer for my grandma (when my dad prints this out and gives it to her) - I am not actually failing grad school. I'm just making artwork that isn't my best work. I am, of course, going to all my classes and working extremely hard. I haven't become involved in drugs or other risky business. Although I did move Brooklyn, which so far has no more crime than Manhattan with the added benefit of significantly cheaper coffee.