Tuesday morning, nine-o’clock. I was sitting in the front seat of my car, trying to fight back tears. I had just finished reading the comment section on my latest viral mop painting video and it was an awful way to start my day. I have been creating art professionally for over twenty years. From conceptual photography and videography in my early-twenties and thirties, to my more recent work on canvas, everything has been shared with my audience — receiving both praise, and at times, criticism. But in all that time creating, I have never experienced any level of negative criticism quite equal to what I am currently reading online.
When I was in art school, one of the fundamental pillars of my education as an artist was learning the ability to handle harsh criticism — and it has always been something I’ve considered to be one of my strengths. But sometimes even the strongest pillars of our personalities can crack, and that’s when I have had to actively remind myself that our current internet comment culture is not about me, or you; it is about the people choosing to post the negative comments online.
I understand that my mop paintings will never appeal to all audiences. The paintings are large-scale, abstract pieces that are meant to be a reflection of my own emotional states in relation to the movements and decisions I make while creating them. And while some of the comments of my work can be kind, complimentary, or constructive — a lot of the more recent comments seem to skew towards negative, hateful personal attacks. For example, on a good day, people tell me my paintings are not worthy of being called art — and others say my mop paintings are in no way original. On a bad day, commenters prefer to attack my style, my body, or my intellect. Some even go as far as describing the awful things they would do to me if they ever saw me in real life. I’m not sure when personally attacking someone became so acceptable in society?
We all know most internet commenters would never dream of saying the things they say online to someone’s face. And what I have found is that many young teens don’t realize how hurtful and harmful their comments can truly be when joining in on the negative commenting. I once replied to a young girl “did your mother not teach you that attacking someone isn’t ok?” to which I got multiple apologies for her comments both on the post and via private messages. I honestly don’t think they realize what they are doing, and this alone is a huge problem. This does not, however, excuse the angry adults ready to tear others down.
But I can’t allow those commenters to tear me down, and you shouldn’t either. On days I find myself affected by negative comments, like that morning in my car, I call one of my best friends to help me get some perspective. To remind me that I need to stop focusing on the negative, hateful comments — and instead look for the wholesome, insightful comments. I need to ignore the hate and embrace the love.
When I focus on those positive comments I am reminded of the kindness of people who defend my art. Some tell me that my art is “creative and beautiful”, while others find my art “refreshing and inspirational”. One lovely comment said, “I love your work! Not everyone has to agree with me or you but if doing this makes you happy then go for it and ignore all the negative comments. Life is short so enjoy it as much as you can!”
I am so inspired by this kind of positivity, and I find it propels me to continue to create, inspire, and support other artists. I have made videos answering the hate in humorous ways in an effort to show other artists not to let it get to them. In the last few weeks I’ve received dozens of messages about how I have inspired young artists to find their creative outlet; how I have empowered other creators to take a chance on posting art publicly; and how I have made people happy creating, painting, and dancing with my mop — ignoring all the hate and embracing all the love I’m bringing to my little piece of the online world.
You can find my artwork on my social media at Tiktok @carolynmara and Instagram @carolyn_mara, and you can view my current and past mop painting selection on my website at https://www.carolynmara.com