Insta Imperfection
alley wall.jpg
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 Me without the photoshopped smooth forehead and skin.

Me without the photoshopped smooth forehead and skin.

Pressure to be perfect on instagram can be intense. Having a well curated feed filled with beautiful images and positive messages gets likes and followers. And for many of us, this is also how we promote our work aka make a living. As an artist, Instagram has been a valuable tool for promoting and selling my artwork. Yay! But I also wonder about the downsides.

The other day I posted on instagram that I was going through a tough time personally. This was a departure from my usual MO of posting pics of my artwork, beautiful interiors and the occasional personal shot (carefully curated of course) along with upbeat positive vibes. I got a few sympathetic comments on the post but otherwise as you can well imagine the number of likes was quite low. So it got me wondering about perfection and the quest for likes.

I’ve certainly noticed my instagram feed change since I started in 2013. I use to post a lot more photos of what inspired my creative process. Images like worn and weathered buildings, peeling paint and other wabi sabi things but over time I could see that pictures of beautiful interiors did way better and so I pretty much stopped posting them. I also don’t post many pictures of myself - often intimidated by the ubiquity of young pretty instagramers out there. I don’t want people to know I’m over 40 (oops) I did recently start posting images of myself but only after I had hired a professional photographer. I’m pleased with the results but I noticed that the photographs had been photoshopped to smooth out the wrinkles on my forehead. I still don’t know how I feel about that. I’m just as vain as the next person but this also seems to do a huge disservice to myself and women in general. After all god willing every one of you and me will reach 40 and beyond so why not celebrate female beauty in all forms? I earned those wrinkles. That’s 40 years of thinking hard about all kinds of shit.

women are taking a closer look at their power and starting to question the very narrow fiew of what's beautiful

But perhaps we are starting to witness a shift. In small and potentially big ways. With things like #metoo and #timesup women are taking a closer look at their power and starting to question the very narrow view of what’s beautiful and valued in our society. I’m encouraged by bloggers and instagrammers like Lauren McPhillips @thisrenegadelove who has recently been posting images proudly showing off her body that looks like the 98% of us non-models. It’s about damn time we see images of wibbly bits and belly rolls. Check out a recent NYTimes article that lists a bunch of female empowering instagrammers showing a different view of femininity. And as a woman who is no longer in the cultural sweet spot of her mid 20’s I’m also encouraged by a lot more ad campaigns featuring older women. Go Helen Miren! It’s seeing images like these that gives me strength and courage to look at myself differently. It’s helping me see myself with fresh eyes. The years of experience and wisdom, the struggle to find my life’s purpose, my strong legs that have powered me through 100 mile bike rides and my slightly flabby but capable arms that hold me in plank pose. I look pretty damn good (and no stupid qualifier required “for my age”)

So all this to say will I be changing what I post on instagram? In small but not insignificant ways, yes. I will keep true to who I am and not be afraid to reveal not only the inspiring and beautiful but I hope to also share the challenges and struggles that make any full life worth living.

There is beauty in imperfection after all

 
Lori HarrisonComment
Finding Grace in Winter Months
 Salt stained stairs

Salt stained stairs

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Many people I cross paths with these days say more or less the same refrain — “I hate winter, especially in the city. It’s so dirty and disgusting.” While I am not immune to these sentiments it got me thinking. I thought if you are like me and live in a city in the more northern of the northern hemisphere then you are faced with at least 4-6 months of potentially inclement weather aka “dirty and disgusting”. That means that a large portion of your life is spent wishing it was another time of year. I just thought that’s nuts. I’m not going to do that anymore — what a waste! It might take a little more effort but if we take the time and open our eyes to the possibility we can find an abundance of beauty and grace any time of year. And yes even in March in a big city.

How do you find grace and beauty in a city of brown slush and grey skies? I think it starts with a little intention and a bit of practice. Set the intention first of all that beauty is everywhere and can be found if we put our mind to it.

And practice by starting with your next walk (even if it’s just to the corner Starbucks to get a coffee). Ask yourself to observe what colours do you see, what interesting patterns can you find (on the streets, in the land) what unusual things can you identify. Maybe start photographing the interesting things you see out and about. Not necessarily with the mindset of will this look good on my instagram feed but more of a journal for your own creative insights and noticing. I noticed this interesting pattern the other day created on a light coloured tiled floor in the subway made by hundreds of people’s slushy boot prints.

What else can we observe when we are out and about. Maybe an unusual bird or even the quality of light that noticeable starts to change this time of year. I am often surprised at how many times I have been lucky enough to see a big hawk in the middle of the city scoping for prey. It’s amazing what you can see when you tune into what’s around you. One of my favourite books that might help get you started is Bird Art Life by Kyo Maclear.

I believe that by seeking out and witnessing beauty you give yourself a gift. A little moment just for you. To revel in the many layered richness of life that exists all around us in patterns, textures, sounds, sights and smells. Taking us out of our heads, out of our next task or to do list and giving us an opportunity to be present and experience a moment of grace.

 
Lori HarrisonComment
Perfectly Imperfect
 The clap board shed that started my fascination with beauty in imperfection

The clap board shed that started my fascination with beauty in imperfection

 Clap board shed on a roadside in the Bay of Fundy

Clap board shed on a roadside in the Bay of Fundy

Do you know those moments when something or someone stops you in your tracks? I’ve been lucky enough to have a few in my life. One of them happened about a decade ago on a semi annual father daughter hiking trip in the Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia.

I told my father to pull over, pull OVER I said. I saw something so beautiful and irresistible that I had to get out and photograph it. It wasn’t flowers or a pretty ocean view. As we drove along a picturesque coastal road what I saw was this dilapidated little white clapboard shed and was instantly smitten. The paint was peeling and the the structure slightly sagging into the thick green grass. Not exactly what you might call typically beautiful but I certainly thought so.

The photograph I took that day was part of a period of creative reawakening - a several year process that has grown into a total preoccupation. In this process I have discovered and explored: Wabi Sabi, Kintsugi, urban decay, entropy, beauty in the everyday and often overlooked, order and chaos, and ultimately, all of which could be lumped most simply under the umbrella of imperfection. Perhaps this preoccupation comes from the fact that most of my life I have struggled with perfectionism (yes I know, poor me). There are worse things in this world for sure but none-the-less, these are some of the things I struggle with.

And so here I find myself today, a perfectionist obsessed with the beauty of imperfection and her own coming to terms with flaws and failures.

This journal is about exploring this idea further beginning with the origin story for my cushion collection and art work and spinning out from there to explore the many layers, folds and textures of this broad and complicated topic.

Hopefully you will find it insightful and uplifting. This is meant to be a celebration of imperfection and an opportunity for us all to acknowledge that no one’s life really looks like their instagram feed or favourite lifestyle blog. (there is a reason it’s called life/style - because it’s styled people)

What I hope for myself and others is to awaken the mind and soul to the beauty of the worn, weathered, frayed and decayed, lop sided, fleshy, freckled, marked, chipped, cracked, stained, ripped, glued, peeling, patched, overgrown, messy, a-symetrical and broken.

Because I believe in the impartial words of the great Leonard Cohen... 

there is a crack in everything,
that’s how the light get’s in”

Lori HarrisonComment