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A B O U T D A V I D W A L K E R
I make art. I feel that it is a personal expression of my inner consciousness. It is creative and tells me much about myself. It is meaningful only in terms of my own personal response to what I perceive it to be saying to me. If it speaks to others, I am glad that others are able to know me better and that they are able to somewhat enter into my world of consciousness.
I believe that the making of art is primarily for the benefit of the artist. If what the artist has created communicates messages and feeling to others, then it is because of the universality of the human experience that is speaking through the work of art. I do not believe that art has to be lasting in physical terms to be great art, much less good art. If a creative effort is able to move, change, and teach the human spirit to grow into its full conscious potential, then I think the purpose of art has been fulfilled.
I would describe my quilts as personal narrative abstractions. The designs and themes come from spaces within. I allow the images to flow through me into the fabric, most often not knowing for sure (or at all) what they mean or what they are trying to say. Usually, at some unannounced point in the creative process, the message begins to express itself. I have yet to be disappointed. The message has always arrived and has always affirmed in me some truth about my own personal reality. I am amazed and humbled when this happens. Once known and expressed, the message may again retreat into mystery only to surface later as an even greater or more relevant truth.
David Walker's experience as a self-taught artist encourages others to look within themselves to find their personal vision that both teaches and heals. The only expectation required in the expression of the artist's vision is honesty. Walker believes that true validation must come from within.
In 1995 Walker was awarded an Individual Artist Fellowship from the Ohio Arts Council. Walker's work appeared in 30 Distinguished Quilt Artists of the World, International Great Quilts Festival (2002), Tokyo, Japan, Quilt Nationals '87, '89, '95, Visions '92, Ohio Designer Craftsmen's Best of '88 through '95, New England Quilt Museum, Perimeter Gallery (Chicago, IL), and the Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art. Walker's work is included in the collections of the Kroger Company, Cincinnati Bell, Fidelity Investment Corporation, all in Cincinnati, OH, and is also included in the permanent collection of the Ohio Craft Museum, Columbus, OH, as well as in many other corporate and private collections.
In 2000 and 2004 Walker was a selected as a Teacher of the Year nominee by The Professional Quilter. Since 1990 Walker has been teaching workshops and lecturing throughout the United States, including the Quilt/Surface Design Symposium, Columbus, OH, for 12 years, the Museum of the American Quilter's Society, Paducah, KY, Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, Gatlinburg, TN, the Southwest School of Art and Craft, San Antonio, TX, and internationally in Germany, Netherlands, South Africa, and Canada. In 1996 Walker was a juror for Quilt San Diego, Visions: The Art Quilt, an international exhibit which focuses on quilts as art, and in 2001, Walker judged the American Quilter's Society Show in Paducah, KY.
Walker lives and maintains his studio in Cincinnati, OH.
David Walker standing on the edge of Walker Bay,
The journal entries that appear below eventually became the core of an article that appear in Art/Quilt Magazine, Issue 2, 1995. I have received many requests to reprint this article on "Rejection" on my website, so I thought that it might be interesting to present it as it first appeared in my journals. For me it was interesting to reflect back upon how the ideas developed from one day to the next. The brief comments about journaling below also appeared in Art/Quilt Magazine.
For me journaling is just one of many ways I try to maintain a dialog with myself. Although I now write at the computer, journaling remains an informal exercise despite its outward appearance. Often my journal entries are born from my correspondence with friends. Although I think it is best to keep a regular entry schedule, I find that I will often go for long periods without writing anything---this frequently results in feelings of guilt. I feel like I have slighted a faithful friend. Reading back into my journal and reflecting on what is now past is my journal's way of gifting me with greater insight and vision for the future. It affirms for me the reality that I am not standing still.
Friday, March 19, 1993
Waking up to bright sunshine coming through my bedroom window is almost more than I can stand. It is still bitterly cold. The sunshine both belies the fact that it is still winter as well as reminds me that the first day of spring will soon be upon us.
A month has gone by, and the long awaited news arrives in the mail. Before we even open the letter, there are clues to its contents. It is more than just a letter. We handle it gingerly and suspect that it also contains the slides that we have sent for jury review. Our hearts sink. We hope that some slides are missing, that all have not been returned, that at least one was kept and accepted. We slowly open the envelope, unfold the letter, and long to see after the formal greeting, the word "CONGRATULATIONS". But it is not there, and we die a little death.
Euphemisms abound for relating the news that our work has not succeeded and that it has been rejected from an exhibition. "Your work stood up well under stiff competition, however . . . " "After careful consideration, the jury has decided upon 57 works . . ." "We really liked your slides, but . . ." No matter how carefully the words are formed in an attempt to ease the pain of their intent, we still perceive what they say as rejection. Kindness and diplomacy, though well intended, are ineffective painkillers at times like these. The patient is hurting.
I have recently been rejected from several exhibitions, and though I say that it doesn't bother, I know that deep down inside myself there is a sense of loss, of not being worthy enough, of missing the mark.
The word itself---REJECTION---is such a a nasty sounding word! It spits out of your mouth. We treat it like a foreign language and find ourselves translating it into things like "shut up", "go to your room", "why don't you stop wasting your time?", "is this the best that you can do?" These language lessons from childhood are all coming back to me now.
As a child I knew how to react to rejection better than I do as an adult. I was trained from the very beginning of my life concerning just how to behave when people told me that they didn't like what I was doing. I could react by stomping out of the room and then pouting my way back into the family circle once again. I could throw a temper tantrum in a vain attempt to regain the attention of my friends. I could cry theatrical tears and beg for sympathy and forgiveness. Sometimes I tried to cover up my damaged pride by denying that anything was wrong, and would even revert to namecalling myself by blaming the other person's opinion of me on their utter stupidity or genetic imbalance. I had many possibilities to choose from, and I used them all. Why not? I had learned all of these ego defense mechanisms from 'responsible and mature' adults who were themselves using them on a day-to-day basis with seemingly good results. So, now as a adult myself and having been so well taught, why should I be expected to react to rejection differently than I had as a child.
Saturday, March 20, 1993 (The First Day of Spring)
It has only been in these recent years of midlife that I have come to a truer knowledge of who I am, my worth, and my dignity. It seems strange that I was denied this same knowledge as a child. With it I could have from the earliest of experiences played with and developed my naturally creative instincts. However, I have grown up with the attitude that everything I do in life receives some sort of grade or approval from outside myself. I have lent exaggerated importance to others' opinions about the way I think and express myself and have empowered their judgments with the ability to define my own happiness.
Now, as an adult, I have come to understand things differently. through much soul searching and study I have learned that what others think of me is not nearly as important as what I think about myself. I would even say that what others think is basically little importance in the final analysis.
Sunday, March 21, 1993 (Attended the Best of '93, Ohio Designer Craftsmen, Columbus, OH)
Virginia Randles, friend and mentor, once expressed perfectly what I am trying to say: "What you think of yourself is the most important thing in the world. No one else can do it for you." I can clearly remember when Virginia summed up an AQN (Art Quilt Network, Ohio) discussion with this simple wisdom. Everyone seemed to be pulled from her or his own thoughts and quickly jotted down Virginia's statement into their notes for future reference. Everyone immediately related to the truth of what Virginia had said. We all knew that it represented the bottom line for attaining the happiness we sought.
Monday, March 22, 1993
When we allow others to judge us and determine the value of our life's actions and work, we are in effect relinquishing our birthright to determine our own destiny and purpose. I feel that I know what is best for me, and I feel this to be true for most other adults also. I know when something is right or wrong, good or bad. I know when a creation of mine is complete or in progress. I know when to make changes that will satisfy my personal goals and aspirations. Therefore, if I have spent months in the creation of a work of art, then something within myself must have driven me to its completion. Something within myself must have guided the hundreds of decisions that led to the moment that allowed me to say "it's finished, put an end to it, affix a signature, and move on". Almost always I am happy with my results. I'm elated and humbled that I have moved into existence an idea which before then could only be seen in 'my' mind.
Why then, when I place this dearly loved creation before the critical eyes of others, do I cringe when it is not received with the same celebration that I gave it when I had confidently decided that it said to me exactly what I wanted it to say? If I allow myself to be destroyed by what others have to say, then I feel that I must once again investigate the basic motivations that I pledged would guide my work all along.
For me, my artwork is the spiritual expression of who I really am and what I really believe. I only need to read over my artist's statement to refocus upon this truth. My statement has always contained the essence of why I make art and why it is so important in my life. My artwork cannot be rejected by anyone unless I give them the power to reject it. I can listen to what others have to say, and I can learn and make changes, but I don't have to be destroyed by their rejection of my honest effort. Others might consider this assertive confidence as egotistical and self-serving, but I don't see it that way. If my creative expression has been the result of an honest effort to visually communicate an idea or feeling and if I feel that it successfully speaks to me, then I must conclude that the resulting self-approval should be viewed as healthy and life affirming.
Without a doubt, my artwork affirms in me my real purpose in this lifetime and proclaims to me that I am not merely a spectator, but that I am genuinely participating in the creative activity of the entire universe. By using my creative energy, I testify that I am alive and that my creative contribution is unique and important. Neglecting my creative energy denies all the above and in effect makes my life null and void.
In the final analysis, as I see it, it is not as I once thought nearly as important for me to know why a piece of my work was not selected for this or that exhibition. I have learned that what is important for me to understand is why I react the way I do when my work is found to be unacceptable, and how I let it affect the rest of my life. My reaction to rejection depends upon how I have come to think of myself.
The location of empowerment is the key. Do I let others decide when I have succeeded or when I have failed, or do I let myself make these decisions?
Tuesday, March 23, 1993
The little child residing within this adult which I have become can no longer afford to endure the destructive badgerings so vividly recalled from childhood. It is time to heal the wounds of those innocent early criticisms. I have learned that only I have the power to reject or affirm what I create. I refuse to let others tell me to "shut up" and "go to my room" any longer. I must instead empower myself and speak out boldly in my art with the confidence that what I have to say is important even though its truth is not easily translatable to others. I refuse to let others tell me to "stop wasting my time". By now I surely know the value of time and make every effort to use it playfully and wisely. And to the criticism, "is this the best that you can do?", I will emphatically reply, "Yes, without a doubt, this is the best that I can do, for this time anyway, and if it's not good enough for you, then know that I am sleeping peacefully because I have decided that it is more than good enough for me!"
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