life . Portrait . street

Madison, WI


Fontana Giusti

September 2023
on living my truth, intuition vs. confidence, and feeling an imposture

the prompt:

Grandma Moses - September 1945

the process

Alright, I’m not going to lie, I had no idea what to make of this prompt. I also had very little time for diving in and doing creative work in September.

But what struck me, in our conversations at the art lab, is how controversial she was in the art world, despite her Hallmark success and immense popularity. She also had a long life, and discovered painting, the art form that made her famous, later in life, proof, to anyone still doubting that, that there is no expiration date on talent and success. She had no formal training, and followed her intuition, becoming an emblem of what is now known as naive art.

I also lack formal training. Does that make me a naive too? Is that a good or a bad thing? Do I want to be recognized by the art world, to be loved by the public, or just to do my thing and get by (if money grew on trees…)? I feel like a want a bit of it all, because success and validation feel so good, but I’m also an introvert who doesn’t feel comfortable being the center of the attention.

But success in art and creativity is a hard thing to measure and because of that, it’s also hard to reach. 

I believe I have something to say in portraiture, I’m drawn to people and faces, I’m interested in the stories, and I love to meet someone creatively – though as I am reminded regularly by my own family, I’m not the easiest person when I’m directing, especially those who are closest to me. And while I do photograph landscapes, I never believed I had anything to contribute to the field.

Landscape photography feels hyper-technical, very masculine, and sometimes also a little boring to me. It’s a field where composition is so important, it almost feels unattainable to the imperfectionist I like to claim to be, and yet, I practice it, because landscapes are grand and when I find myself somewhere I feel something, I have the irrepressible urge to snap a photograph, it’s how I engage with the world, and nothing will stop that.

So I beat myself all month looking for an art piece to contribute to the prompt, and I found myself at a loss. I let the deadline pass, and I felt guilt and FOMO about it, because I had images that fit the theme, but a big case of Impostor Syndrome was holding me back.

I am a landscape artist

This is a photograph I took this summer, during a week I spent at my dad’s house in the Italian Alps, in Valle d’Aosta.

The week went poorly, to say the least. My family has toxic dynamics that aren’t being addressed, and it just gets worse year after year. So on our last day in the mountains, we weren’t really on speaking terms with anyone anymore, and we (husband, kids, and husband’s sister) went on a hike on our own, to simply avoid interacting and getting angry. The hike was too ambitious, it was stormy and there was hail, so it really didn’t turn out to be anything, but it felt peaceful and safe, and the views were simply breathtaking, as they always are in that valley.

I was carrying with me my Olympus OM2 with a wide angle lens, and I snapped this image without thinking. As a matter of fact, I wasn’t thinking, but I was feeling it, because it turns out I snapped it another time, with my Holga:

This little house, nestled between giant mountains, feeling safe, in a green pasture, with a road leading up to it, a shelter from the upcoming storm. A seemingly simple image, but a beautiful one, and a composition that felt obvious.

But when it came time to contribute it to the group, I stopped myself. I was telling myself that this was an image that spoke to me, but I didn’t really know what I was doing when it came to landscapes, that I was a sloppy composer. The image felt mine, but the artistry did not, it felt too obvious.

Was it boring?

Was it “déjà vu”?

What made it special?

Would anyone else feel what I felt?

But these questions all came down to the fact I feel illegitimate in the field. I’m naive, in a sense, I don’t know what I’m doing.

What I didn’t recognize was that that was exactly the point of Grandma Moses. I might not have realized what I was doing when I was doing it, but I felt something, and when I captured that landscape, my intuition was guiding me – and before you think this is turning ridiculous, I believe intuition to be about knowledge, I don’t think it’s some supernatural power people are born with. It’s the knowledge you acquire without even realizing it, the memories that resurface of things seen, and lived, and experienced, and also learnt over the years. 

And yet, intuition doesn’t feel mine, it feels like something that just happened. And I realize now that that’s just wrong, because being intuitive does not make me an imposture. 

So yes, I am a landscape artist. 

If my art resonates in any way with you, please have a look at my print shop and consider making a purchase. I’m a very small operation, and I promise that every time I sell something I make a happy dance in my living room!

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