To Curate is to love.
Originally meant to be read aloud at a gathering with the theme “Love Hurts”. Pardon the smattering of ellipses.
There’s a Buddhist belief that therapists, doctors, and other healers hold the burden of other people’s pain. In some cultures, they call them ‘sin-eaters’. They take on the suffering of another, absorb it, and through their body, through their love, they turn the pain into compassion. They heal others by swallowing the pain and suffering. But, because of this, they are forced to forever wander…their spirit too unstable to find a home. It wasn’t a terribly well paying job, and the social stigma that followed it was something no one would ever wish upon their worst enemy. But somebody had to do it…so these sin-eaters willfully took on the deed. They moved from village to village, trading their soul in exchange for food and temporary shelter, until the burden became too heavy and they were no more.
Isn’t that hauntingly beautiful? To love people so much to the point that you’re willing to take on their pain. To sacrifice the stability of your own life for the sake of another…or, in this case, many others.
But these healers. They’re still human, aren’t they? They’re still people filled with pain and suffering of their own. At what point does it all become too heavy to carry?
When you’re the doctor, who heals you?
Recently, I had the opportunity to curate my first gallery show titled Vulnerability: The Space Between. I poured my heart and soul into this show…determined to heal the current state of the world by sitting on the shoulders of giants. Giants who use digital mediums to make themselves not so giant; artists who are responding to how small they feel in the world.
You see, as a curator, and as an artist, I find that my vehicle for healing is art. I love understanding the curiosity, the excitement…but, most often, the pain that artists try to express through their work. And, to heal them, I take it upon myself to design contexts for them to be understood….to ultimately feel like the burden is no longer solely on their shoulders.
I’ve heard all kinds of things — artists whose work stems from drug addiction, depression, worry about the present nature of humanity. I’ve heard from creators whose work that seems poppy, bright, and colorful actually represent self-loathing…an attempt to mask internal pain by seeking validation through aesthetics that are easy to share. It takes a closer look to notice the cry for help hidden behind the shiny aesthetic.
These are things that would be so hard to see unless they were thoughtfully caressed… and delicately displayed with the utmost care. When I’m responsible for handling the purest form of vulnerability — when an artist trusts me with a fragile piece of themselves — I promise them that I’ll take it and turn it in into something beautiful. That their pieces will turn into empathy or understanding in someone else.
And when my show opens, I hope the burden will be passed onto the shoulders of many…each turning them into their own unique forms of compassion.
So I get to work. I place each piece in it’s desired home, arranging them in a way that, in my mind, will guide the viewer through an introspective experience. “Ah, yes,” I say to myself…imagining the various out-of-body experiences each person will have as they come to find themselves through the work…and perhaps do me the favor of taking just a little bit of the burden off of my shoulders by sharing the work with others.
The show opens. The room is filled. And over the next three months, countless reviews are written. How fantastic, how timely, how perfectly positioned. What incredible messages told through unique methods…unexpected mediums used in such beautiful ways. All the right words a curator could possibly want written up in legitimate publications!
But the show closes, and I still feel heavy. In fact, I feel even more alone with this burden.
You see, sin-eaters were only called upon when needed. All other times, they were avoided…cast aside. People were more than happy to give them their sins, but when the deed was done, they were shunned for the very thing they were asked to do.
Sometimes, I have days where I can’t take it in anymore. The weight has simply become too heavy for my 5 foot 3 frame.
But no one else wants to help me carry my burden.
So, I guess I’ll travel from village to village…agency to agency…gallery to gallery…continuing to alleviating those I love in the way that I know best. I don’t know how much more I’ll be able to carry, but as long as I have the strength to do so, I’ll continue to heal until I am no more.