Joseph suggested that I serve as a representative for his work as a way to earn income. Making a living in the arts had never come up, but something about this felt right. It was an idea that energized my imagination, replacing my worries with curiosity and excitement.
I started working with Joseph. The first thing I did was assemble a photo album of Joseph’s carvings. Once his piece was sold, there was no record of it. I took up where I’d left off, photographing new carvings, the process a balm, quieting my anxieties about pending decisions, yet igniting my appetite for exploration. Often Joseph and I would talk about purpose and what it meant to come into one’s own.
It was during one of these conversations that Joseph suggested that I serve as a representative for his work as a way to earn income. I’d lost a high-powered job in a first world county, and in a better position than most to find something else. Yet here was this man, an artist living in a developing nation, offering to share the fruits of his creations as seeds for cultivation on my path forward.
A Dream Takes Hold
I returned from my trip shortly after my 45th birthday. This was a significant year for me in more than one way, for I’d just become the same age at which my mother suddenly died of heart failure. What had become rooted in me over the past four months since losing my job was a desire to live with purpose from my heart, without regrets for un-pursued dreams. This meant not doing work that was safe and passionless, even if it meant losing my home. The day I came to that realization, something solidified in me as this knowing of myself and how I wanted to live emerged.
A dream began to take hold, the wisps of which made my heart smile. I wanted the independence of working for myself, the adventure of spending more time in the Caribbean and the creativity of becoming involved in art. I didn’t know how I would do it, but I could not find a reason why I should not try. So I began exploring, seeing what resonated, and looking at how I might weave the pieces into a design for the life I wanted. I started connecting with consultants I respected and admired about how they did their work, and volunteering and taking on projects with local nonprofits that allowed me to build my skills and reputation. I also wanted to help Joseph bring his work to a larger audience and began looking at how to combine photography with story telling. To improve my photography skills, I enrolled in a class at the community college, and sought out working artists and photographers from whom I could learn.
The Frailties of Doubt
There was nothing logical about the path I was choosing, just a deep sense that this was what I should do. But this knowing did not alleviate the discomfort of uncertainty. The conversations with Joseph, about discovering and following one’s purpose, were the encouragement and reminders of why each next step mattered. I remember Joseph saying, “It is wrong to see someone so powerful held back by the frailties of doubt. Dash away the doubts so that you may manifest. Without respect for your own power and knowledge of yourself, you will always have doubts.” I saw and was bolstered by Joseph’s certainty in knowing himself, the courage, strength, and freedom that this gave him. And I wanted that freedom.
I began making large prints of the photographs of Joseph’s carvings, experimenting with integrating elements of nature and West African Adinkra symbols. My confidence grew by leaps when the first gallery I brought the prints to offered to exhibit them. Several months later when the same gallery curated an exhibit for the local museum, I was determined to submit Joseph’s work for consideration. My idea was to create a mixed media collage featuring one of his original wood sculptures. By phone, Joseph and I collaborated on the concept of the piece we titled Pan Spirit, that would depict the connection between T&T’s steel drum music and her African ancestry. The weeks of effort paid off, Pan Spirit was selected for the museum’s four–month exhibit and featured in publicity materials!