By Chrystal DeCoster
LYONS – The psychological phenomenon dubbed “impostor syndrome” is where some people cannot positively ascribe their own accomplishments. Tina Fey and Maya Angelou, noted public achievers, admit feeling like imposters, convinced they are frauds that fail to deserve their highly acclaimed success.
According to New York Times’ science reporter, Benedict Carey, in his “Feel Like a Fraud? At Times, Maybe You Should” article, “In a world of profound uncertainty, self-serving delusion probably helps people to get out of bed and chase their pet projects.”
I first heard the term “imposter syndrome” from a self-describing Sally Truitt, a Lyons resident, artist, musician, and working mom who indeed chases pet projects; in her case, some of these pets are monsters.
In between everything else she does, Truitt relishes time in her backyard studio to scare up fresh beasts, guide scraps to new purposes, and tinker endlessly to “relieve the charley horse in my brain,” she describes. The images she reveals on her rusty license plate canvases are done by “not painting them and then they are there,” she explains. Her embellished matchboxes are for stashing hurt feelings. As a jeweler in Old Town Alexandria, VA, she was known for her risk taking amalgamations.
Truitt, a Washington D.C. native, comes by this daring out-of-the-box inventiveness naturally. Her family annually orchestrated its “Mouse Sale,” which morphed into a local holiday pilgrimage, and offered arts and crafts hand made from nothing in order to benefit others.
Her website claims: “Sally Truitt has been an artist since she discovered melting crayons on a hot radiator with her sisters in 1966. Drawn mostly to weathered, discarded media found in or around nature, Sally spends her creative efforts mostly on surreptitious retrieval of said objects from their lonely resting places and then transforming the pieces unpredictably.”
After studying biochemistry at the College of Wooster with the goal of pursuing a medical career, she conducted cancer research at the National Institute of Health. It was there that Truitt’s “Ph.D.
boss” wisely prompted a career trajectory change.
In approval of this might have been Truitt’s great grandfather, Alben W. Barkley, Vice President of the United States under Harry S. Truman, who evidently passed along his fabled storytelling DNA. The United States Senate’s webpage cites that Barkley “was popularly known as the ‘Veep.’ His young grandson had suggested this abbreviated alternative to the cumbersome ‘Mr. Vice President.’ When Barkley told the story at a press conference, the newspapers printed it, and the title stuck.”
Truitt’s favorite childhood readings included a nonsense verse by Edward Lear and Ogden Nash that weaves tales of woe around an unclassifiable critter entitled The Scroobious Pip, and Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, a Newbery and Caldecott Medal winner by William Steig that tracked the emotional roller coaster of a diffident donkey named Sylvester Duncan.
Contributed essays focused on the mirroring role of fiendish demons in cultural society, “Monster Theory,” by Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, is another favorite Truitt read. “King Willoughby Wentford Rollingsworth Stone,” is her “someday” book that will surely reflect the sway of her other favorite writers/illustrators, Maurice Sendak, Theodore Seuss Geisel and Shel Silverstein. In the meantime, all these pixels of influence can be poked for in Truitt’s reverse glass paintings and mini-monster canvases for sale at Lyons Mercantile on Main.
Punctuating Truitt’s passionate “taxidermy” sculptures and “freaky” acrylic art is the following quote from Jim Butcher’s book, “Ghost Story”: “People adore monsters. They fill their songs and stories with them.”
Speaking of songs, Truitt’s other monster talents are truly noteworthy. As “just a regular weird young girl” who taught herself how to play the banjo, through connections forged through her parents’ professional journalistic affiliation with National Geographic and Smithsonian publications, Truitt lived at the fold of the legendary Carter Family near Hiltons, VA. The family so appreciated Truitt’s old instrumentation style that she was asked to perform at Maybelle Carter’s funeral where she played on stage as a teenager with Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash’s husband, and met her then idol, Roy Clark, Jr.
She has since shared the limelight with Emmylou Harris, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Michelle Shocked, Tim and Molly O’Brien, and has mingled musical magic with bands such as Sugarbeat, the Moody Sisters, Yonder Mountain String Band, Uncle Earl, Mighty Squirrel, and the infamous BoomChicks.
Local award-winning dobro player, Sally Van Meter is now also a videographer. In her 2010 video entitled Rebeast, Van Meter prefaced: “My best friend is an artist that thinks differently than most of my friends. For a class project at CU Boulder, I filmed a portrait documentation of Sally Truitt, the artist as she creates one of her ‘rebeasted’ animal heads.”
In the video Truitt said “I call them my Rebeasts because I feel like I recreate, reinvent and reorder the anatomy of creatures into new combinations of animals that don’t obviously really exist – but when you look at them you can’t seriously imagine that they wouldn’t exist except for they just didn’t happen to.”
Truitt humbly infuses new life into all she undertakes. Her creativity helped shape Planet Bluegrass’ innovative presence. A recent project, alongside partner and noted photographer, Nicholas Blanchet, is the Monster Shack in Lyons, which sells shaved Hawaiian Ice. Her T-shirts sell out immediately when available in the Sundance catalog. Her part-time “Ninja” work at Apple calls upon her technical expertise and her patient but tough yet nice-to-people personality.
So back to this “imposter syndrome” thing. Freelance writer Jessica Stillman likened this personality hitch to a “badge of honor” in the lifestyle and career blog named “Brazen Life.” In her opinion, “having ‘imposter syndrome’ indicates positive things about you as a professional.” “Feelings of faking it are usually associated with intelligence, diligence and, paradoxically, competence. Slackers, blusterers, and the genuinely incompetent tend not to stress about feeling like fakers,” Stillman adds. Again to quote Butcher: “Monsters make choices. Monsters shape the world. Monsters force us to become stronger, smarter, better. They sift the weak from the strong and provide a forge for the steeling of souls. Even as we curse monsters, we admire them.”
In my opinion, the unslacking talents of the unassuming Sally Truitt provide a monster portion of authentic magic that helps color the world a better place.
Cathleen Chrystal DeCoster has been appointed publicist for the Lyons Arts and Humanities Commission (LAHC) and is a two-year resident of Lyons. Her arts-centered career includes spans as editor/art director of The Morgan Horse Magazine, secondary vocational and fine arts teacher, post secondary director of education, advertising account executive, and freelance graphic designer, writer and photographer. Please contact her for any inquiries or contributions readers might have regarding arts in Lyons at email@example.com.Back to Top