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Being Sensitively Assertive


By Catherine Corcoran

I recently read an article on ARTSblog USA about vulnerability. What blogger, Victoria Ford, had to say was very true. We artists are sensitive creatures- constantly absorbing the emotional landscapes around us. Without this sensitivity, we have nothing to comment on. It is our understanding nature that allows us to act a maestro within the worlds we choose to create for our audiences. And this is an absolutely beautiful gift; one that I urge you never to exchange for any other. Still, so often we forget the power that we possess within this faculty and our own sensitivity can become inhibitory.

I recently went to see a photographer friend’s work at a new gallery space within QNS Collective, Long Island City. (For those of you unfamiliar with Nat Girsberger, I urge you to take a moment to look into her work, as it possesses such a strong, ethereal nature, which often leaves me breathless.) As in the past, Nat’s work at this particular gallery did not disappoint the audience; however, the display of said work disappointed her.

Without going into too much detail, many of Nat’s photos had not been hung in the way she was promised, and her credit of said pieces was limited.

We have all encountered spaces or events, where we (as artists/ performers) felt a lack of appreciation for our efforts. This is particularly frustrating when we have invested not only our time, but also our financial equity into a particular venue. In instances such as this, I typically see artists respond one of two ways.

First comes the frustrated tirade. We put so much of our hearts into our work, so when this work seems underappreciated; it is easy to become angry- yelling whoever will listen about this ‘injustice’! The issue with this kind of behavior is that it limits our ability to work with other creatives, not only within the venue itself, but also those who may be in the audience. Not to mention how easy it is to misdirect our own aggravation at the wrong person.

But I often also see the opposite. Sweet, sensitive artists saying nothing, but feeling broken-hearted by a letdown. Neither of these reactions are necessary. We do not have to choose between bringing down the coliseum or sacrificing our own happiness.

At QNS Collective, I was particularly struck by how Nat chose to handle this easily frustrating situation. Amidst a gallery filled with patrons, upon realizing her work was displayed differently than she had intended, Nat embodied the perfect combination of the two.

Nat very calmly approached the gallery curator- her tone and body language was calm but also assertive. She explained what she was unhappy with (which was entirely her right, as she had invested in her business by renting space at this gallery) and asked what could be done to amend the situation. More importantly, she offered to be of service, to the curator by proposing that she (Nat) help with the installation in order to achieve the overall aesthetic she that was looking for.

In handling the situation this way, Nat not only was able to present her work in the way she wanted, but also established a working tone of overall ease but still confidence to the gallery and anyone else who may have been viewing the show.

Nat’s photos were, by far, the most popular at the showcase- and she left the gallery with more future working relationships than any other artist there. This was very much a testament to her talent, but also to the pride she had for it. She used her sensitive, understanding nature to be receptive to the needs of the people that she was working with- but also was an assertive, accelerated business woman who was able to get she wanted, and ultimately, deserved.


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Also check out the photography of Nat Girsberger



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