This Fourth of July, I’m celebrating my independence by exercising my freedom as an artist. My second festival this year is coming up, the Fireworks Festival in Locust Grove, Georgia. I’m very excited about doing more sales in person, but it’s a bit intimidating dragging my artwork out and hoping people will take interest and validate my work. I tell myself though, and I have to do this repeatedly, that my work is valid whether I sell everything or nothing.
My work isn’t focused on patriotism, even though I can trace my roots back to the Daughters of the American Revolution. I, like most Americans this year, feel conflicted and angry as our most patriotic celebration approaches. The American flag merchandise in Walmart today was fully stocked and on clearance. It’s a strange time to live in the United States, at once celebrating freedom while also knowing others are being forcibly separated from their families and stripped of their humanity. I feel strange selling my artwork. I feel like it’s trivial.
But independence is about more than knee-jerk patriotism. It’s about standing up for our own beliefs and about forging ahead despite the circumstances of this current climate. It’s okay to work toward a dream, exercising our freedom as we do so and perhaps inspiring others to do the same, even when so much horror is in the world. It’s okay to protest and feel angry while also celebrating the country we hope to be. It’s been dismal here, and it’s about to get worse, but we must keep the idea of America, of what we hope to become and what we must move past, in our mind’s eye if we hope to see progress.
I hope to see you at the festival, or at least coming out into the light to remember what we’re fighting for and why.