As a means of an introduction, let me describe my insecurities, of which I have many:
Over twenty years ago, I got a degree in English and History because I was too chickenshit to go into an arts program. Instead I learned by doing, making a lot of very naïve, sometimes very bad art, and by dabbling in as many different things as I could pursue. I have always felt vulnerable because I don’t have an arts degree; but I also know that because of my education, and my constant dabbling, I can do things like write a decent grant proposal, design a postcard, effectively use a biscuit joiner and table saw, yodel, facilitate a public meeting, to list just a few things.
I describe myself as being an artist / writer / performer because I am legitimately passionate about all of those things, but also because I’ve never been able to figure out a way of making a living from just one of them. In fact, I routinely have to tack on arts administrator / educator / casual laborer to my name, in order to make even a modest annual income.
I live in mortal dread of the German/Yiddish word ‘luftmensch’ which translates as ‘dreamer with no business sense’ or more literally ‘air person’; I also dread the term ‘charlatan’, ‘jack of all trades’, and the proverb ‘bagful of knives, none of them sharp’. In my low moments, particularly after having met someone who is my age, who is either deeply skilled in a single pursuit, wealthy, or just well organized in their affairs, these words and phrases gurgle up in my brain and haunt me.
Being a working artist carries with it some public responsibilities. I first learned this in the mid-nineties, after taking a job with the Arts Hamilton (then called the Hamilton and Region Arts Council) and volunteering as a board member at the Hamilton Artists Inc. It was a palpably different climate back then; art and culture was routinely described as a frill, and there was an unwritten understanding that to remain in Hamilton as an artist was to handicap one’s own potential. Still, there was a small, angry, dedicated community of people trying to challenge those assumptions. To be part of it felt in equal measures intoxicating, rebellious, and foolish. Eventually I learned that fighting for the artistic soul of a mid-size post-industrial city is an absurdly beautiful pursuit, a cause worthy of devoting one’s life.
Insecurity is part of the fabric of creative work. Your doubts become the things you confront in order to produce your art. You put yourself at financial or physical or professional risk in order to keep working. And you don’t ever vanquish your insecurities; you find ways to use them to make yourself stronger.
Tor Lukasik-Foss (born Hamilton, Ontario, 1967) is a multidisciplinary artist whose practice includes writing, sculpture, performance, and varied other pursuits. A major part of his creative practice for the last decade has been a series of performances and performance-related sculptures, loosely assembled under the moniker ‘unlikely concerts’; they are attempts to reformulate the performance stage as a place that is simultaneously public and private, confident and insecure, hidden and exposed.
Lukasik-Foss has exhibited both individually and as part of TH&B, an artist collective of which he is a founding member (along with Ivan Jurakic, Simon Frank, and Dave Hind). He writes arts profiles and a regular column for “Hamilton Magazine”, is assiting the City of Hamilton’s Public Art Program, and has recently taught at the Dundas Valley School of Arts as a instructor in the full-time foundation and advanced studies program. The artist has been awarded the 2007 K.M. Hunter Award for Visual Arts, 2008 Visual Arts Award from the City of Hamilton, a 2009 Hamilton Music Award (Best Male Artist) four Ontario Arts Council Mid Career Visual Arts Grants, and a 2014 Canada Council Visual Art Grant.