Nansy's Story - My Love-Hate Relationship with Art

A Story by Nansy Knano, DaBR Journalist

I started off in fine arts, aspiring to achieve a master’s degree in museum and curatorial studies. I spent my teen years learning as much as I could about art and the historical events that led artists to create the masterpieces they are so well known for.

In order to learn the anatomy of the human body, illegal grave robberies were committed by venerated artists such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. Bernini, who ordered a servant to slash the face of a woman for cheating on him, is celebrated as one of the best Sculptors in the world. Names like Caravaggio completely overshadow arguably superlative painters like Artemisia Gentileschi, due to nothing more than their sex.

I felt excited to learn about the trials and tribulations of these world altering artists, digging past their appearance in the eye of society and discovering the dirt behind the layers, their passion outweighing their afflictions with society's expectations, and this felt real to me.

In my third year of university, I went to Paris to see the Mona Lisa, a piece that da Vinci spent his entire life working on, a piece that holds historical significance throughout multiple time periods. It’s survived multiple wars, vandalism, and thefts and slowly passed from owner to owner, landing in the greedy hands of contemporary, commercial galleries.

I squeezed past the selfie stick tourists to the front of the horde of people. What I saw was not the Mona Lisa. What I saw was a dollar sign surrounded by bullet-proof glass, two security guards, and a reflection of the mindless mob that I was in the centre of.

It was everything that art is against, clean, clinical, safe, protected, untouchable, and unfeeling; a wash of disappointment flooded over me. In that moment, I wanted to break that glass and reveal the truth behind this cold representation of “art education” that so many people seem to be enamoured with.

In my final year at UofT, I decided to leave the world of commercialism and mindless appreciation of historical works. While I still loved art history, I couldn’t stand the reflection of the passive participant who looked back at me with a glazed gaze.

I wanted to be a part of something real, something honest about its intentions and artistic creations, something that didn’t have to hide its ugly money-hungry face.

One day, after I lost my job, I turned on my PS4 and threw on Skyrim, a game that has made quite an impact on my life. During university, it was my escape from reading hours of dry, scholarly articles. This time it was to appease my anxious nerves. I needed to find meaning in my life. What was I doing? I applied to a few jobs and received many rejections. I had just gotten married; I should have been satisfied, but I wasn’t. Something was missing.

October of last year, I went in for an interview with my husband’s boss, a lovely woman who had an executive assistant position available on the trading floor of the bank. I felt alone, desperate, and willing to put my dreams on hold while I earned a paycheck.

I wore an A-line skirt with stockings and a cardigan over my collared shirt and drifted out of the front door. I arrived at my interview, shook hands with my husband’s boss, and sat down in the tiny square room. It had a large round table that took up most of the space and two large leather executive looking chairs. There was a window with a view of all the other tall grey buildings in the area. I listened as my husband’s boss barraged me with the daily tasks of executive assistants. I nodded with feigned interest, feeling the billowing panic building up inside of me.

On the train ride home, my husband lovingly asked how the interview went. I felt my eyes swelling with liquid. I stared out of the window of the train and tried to pluck up the courage to turn to him and say “good” or anything other than the silence wedging its way between us. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to scream. I looked more carefully at the window and caught a glimpse of my reflection. I glared at the stranger, suddenly recalling my reflection back at the Louvre. Tears rolled down my face as I turned back to my husband and cried “terrible.” He held my hand and said the two words I needed to hear most: “it’s okay.”

When we got home, we talked about my aspirations and he asked me: What do you want to do?

This is the reply that put me on the path that I am on today.

“I want to make art that people will actually see and enjoy. I want to make people feel happy, or scared, excited, or empathetic. I want to be a part of a community of acceptance and encouragement, a community that valued their artists, enough to PAY them. I want to help people escape to a different world, kind of like how I feel when I play Skyrim.”

Since then, I have graduated from the Game Art and Animation Program at Seneca College. I’ve joined up with multiple organizations where I feel supported and encouraged. I’ve taken time out of my days to volunteer for gaming events and I’ve completely become aware of the path I want to take. I don’t care how long it takes because I am enjoying every single day.