Stephanie Manzo
Artist, Environmentalist, Friend to many

My favorite part is that when I see certain pieces of art that speaks of this courage and conviction that only comes from bearing yourself to other people. There is this authenticity about it, but its courageous to make something and invite other people to look at it. Or to see it, yourself, To see something you are feeling—an emotion or vulnerability to see it in a physical form. Because we have this identity crisis in America, sometimes it is hard to trust that you can bear something—reveal something or offer or create something and it won’t be judged. Or that you can withstand whatever judgments other people might have.

It’s easy to get praise, but it is hard to get constructive feedback. I think criticism is easy, but constructive feedback is hard. I think that is something we suck at as a society—to give constructive feedback. It’s easy to say “Oh this is the most amazing thing I have seen” but it is hard to say “ What do you think about this”. Or, like, “Do you have anything you’ve noticed” or I guess maybe what I am trying to say is it is easy to criticize and sometimes it is easy to praise, but when you are asked for constructive feedback with the intention to grow or to further yourself. I think, honest genuine feedback can feed that cycle of that upward cycle rather than just the cycle of the hamster wheel.

Its funny to think about this because I feel like I am still trying to find my medium. When I was a kid and anyone asked me what I wanted to be I would tell them I wanted to be an artist—or a vet. When I was a teen, I picked up the notion that was just something you did on the side. Its not what you did for work. I don’t know where that message came from or why I chose to listen to that.

Now, I am at a point where I am realizing I am an artist and I am trying to craft my life. I am looking at my palette and trying to find the colors that are mine.

I am trying to find that courage to express myself in that most authentic way—to be vulnerable and still be safe. It is just a process of growth. What I put out in the beginning will probably suck, but it will get better. There will be praise and criticism—and I need to take both equally.

I don’t want a life that is just praise. I want the other side, too in order to grow.