Be You, Pt. II

To: Rhoda and Akira, thank you for loving me enough to say “enough is enough.”

In my first essay, my friends, I stressed the need to just be you and do you in your art, no matter what the world thinks of it. In this account, I would like to share with you just how hard that actually has been for me. Being me, the real, authentic me, is not easy. It is so difficult for me to be me that for years I hid behind masks in order to avoid being me. First of all, we all face the fear of rejection. This fear is one of the primal fears that any artist fears. Will they like my work? Will they understand my work? Will anyone want to buy my work? Am I wasting my time? I could go on for days with all of the fears of rejection which face a normal artist. In addition to all of the common fears that artists face, I have faced fears that some people would never dream of. Being a convert to Orthodox Christianity I have often heard the line “you are not Greek/ Russian/ Ukranian/ Serbian/ Lebanese/ Bulgarian/ etc., what are you doing painting MY icons?” Add to that the fact that I am a photographer and have often delved into the area of fashion and art photography. For added fun pile on top of that the fact that until about 4 or 5 years ago I had an out of control temper which was remnant from my childhood of fighting with my mom and then the fear of rejection gets even messier. “You are not holy enough to be an iconographer” has been said to me in relation to both matters. My own first ex-wife would tell me on a regular basis that I needed to be as holy as a monk to paint icons, in an attempt to manipulate me into being the person she wanted me to be. For the longest time I would listen to those who leveled such accusations against me and lived in fear of the consequences.

In order to deal with these fears, for the longest time I took a nearly schizophrenic approach to my art. I kept my photography very separate from my iconography. I had 2 websites that were not linked to each other, a separate account on Facbook for each subject, and each account was blocked from each other so that those who commissioned icons and bought icon prints from me would not see the photography that I have done. Most of my photography is family friendly. Portraits, nothing too sexy. However, I have done quite a bit of fashion photography and some art photography that focuses on the female figure. Nothing that I have done could ever be considered remotely pornographic, and yet there have been people who have suggested just that thing.

If we are willing to listen to God, he will often bring the exact people into our lives who we need, in order to help steer and guide us in the direction which we need to grow. Such is the case with Rhoda. Rhoda, like Akira, is one of those two friends who love me enough and know me enough to push and challenge the status quo in my life. Rhoda herself is a successful artist. She is much less blocked as an artist than I am and has both taught art and had her work displayed in major locations, including on the side of a building in downtown Pittsburgh. Rhoda has often stressed to me that the same mind and soul which produce the beautiful icons that many people love, is the same mind and soul which produce the beautiful photography that many other people love and the same mind and soul which has begun producing abstract art. It is not a schizophrenic state where these subjects come from three different Michael Goltz’s all living in one brain and soul, on the contrary they come from the same mind and soul which is Michael Goltz.

In reality, it has only been within the past three years that I have begun to face these fears and to challenge them. When I first met Akira she promised me that if I spent any time with her she would begin to challenge the way I saw the world. And she did. Then I met Rhoda a year later and she took what Akira was doing with me to an entirely different level. Only with much introspection and the beginning of a little self love have I come to accept the truth. The truth is that all of my art comes from the same person, the same mind and soul. I am not schizophrenic. I do not have split personalities all living in one mind. The icons, the modern art which I have just begun doing over the past year and a half, the photography, the blogging, the wood turning that I did before I developed herniated disks in my neck, they all come from the same me. And it is ok to be me. God certainly has not stopped me from painting icons. On the contrary he keeps pulling me back to painting them every time I try to say that I am done and want to walk away from it.

And so when I tell you to “do you”, please understand that I understand just how difficult of a task it is to “do you.” It is not easy to be me. I am an enigma. I do not fit neatly in any box or category. I spent years trying to fit into those boxes and categories and it simply made me angry, artistically blocked and a miserable person. I love God dearly and have come to accept the fact that God loves me dearly, in spite of how messy of a person that I am. I have begun to learn that those who love me and love my art will be accepting of me for everything that I create. They may not like some of the things that I create, but at the same time they will not reject me for them either. And if they do, that is their loss and not mine.

I must be me. I must do my work and not let the opinions of people who are not artists and do not have the courage to even attempt to create art rule what it is that I create. Part of finally learning to love myself after years of being told that I am not good enough and that “if only I was like so and so I would be a better person” is to come out in the open and proudly state that this is me. The essay yesterday might have been encouraging to some people and I certainly hope it was. But the person who it needed to encourage the most was me. “Do you”, Michael Goltz. You are the only one who can do you, and you are the one most well suited to do you.

Gloria in excelsis Deo!

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