Archive for September, 2010

What If?

September 25, 2010

About ten years ago, or maybe five or maybe seven, but not last year or the year before, I thought about selling a family heirloom that would have gotten me approximately $15,000.00. If I had sold it, I would have been able to take a year to just work on my art. I make so little money each year that fifteen grand would actually be MORE than I am used to having. I really wrestled with the possibility. If I had sold this thing, the chances are that I could never have anything like it again. But it’s not something I care for on any aesthetic level, nor do I have a sentimental attachment to it. I talked it over with friends. I asked other artists at parties, openings and other places where crowds gather. Not one person said “Yes!! Do it!”.  Many people actually said “NO!”. Not because of what I wanted to do with the money, but because of this item being given to strangers , cast off from my family. For some reason complete strangers had more sentimental feelings towards it than I do.

I can’t remember what my husband said. I don’t think he was strongly for, or against this plan. In the end, I didn’t do it. I still have the object. I still COULD do it. The question is, what held me back? Was it the fear that if I took a year to really spend the bulk of time time working on my personal vision of art, I’d be right back at square one at the end of that year, with no progress made either with my work, or in my career? Was it the fear of letting down the people I work for? Even though I am only part time at the library, and do a smattering of freelance work, and I am far far from indispensable, I feel a loyalty to those who employ me, and a responsibility to keep my hours, hold on to my turf, and my safe, comfortable routine.

Whatever the reason was, I believe the biggest obstacle was my fear of losing the item of actual value, and trading it in for something that only had value to me. When I imagined waking each and every day for one year, with nothing to do but my mommy chores and my studio work, I imagined a kind of joy that I rarely feel in the life I have. I guess I didn’t feel worth $15,000.00, and 365 days to do what I want to do. My art work doesn’t feel important enough, valid enough to take that sort of time, and that sort of investment. I know that the fact that I don’t believe in myself, in my art, is the thing that holds me back in this life more than anything else. I keep waiting for the validation to come from outside, so that I can allow myself to believe it. But, that’s not the way things work.

I don’t know how things work. But I know that if I can’t bring myself to devote the bulk of my time to what I love to do, it’s not likely that anyone will be swept up by my work as passionately as I’d like. I am allowing myself to carry on with my yellow rubber glove project. It gets sneers from most people, or puzzled looks. But I am going to finish it unless I am physically unable to carry on. Maybe when it is done, I’ll believe I can do anything. Maybe for me this project is like a runner’s triathlon. One step at a time over the course of many days and months will carry you for miles, to a place that is not the same as the place you left, even if it looks the same. Maybe the accomplishment of such a huge task is the validation I need to believe I am worth my own time. I hope so.

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The Mystery Of Life

September 19, 2010

If anyone saw my life from the outside, that is, outside of me, they would wonder how I got so lucky. I don’t have any real job. I don’t have a place I have to be for the most part. I seem almost like a suburban mom from the 1960’s, if you don’t look too closely. It’s certainly not what I imagined all those years ago when I went to art college. I didn’t think that thirty years after graduating I would be married, raising a child, working at a part time job that fits a suburban mom. A library clerk. I clean, I take the puppy for walks. I go to the market. I drive here and there all the time.I walk with friends, I have a political sign in my yard, and we have a yard.

It’s only when you look a little more closely that the suburban mom veneer starts to look a little off. After all, I almost never cook anything. I let my son watch Tru Blood and listen to pretty much anything he likes. My husband makes the bulk of our income but it isn’t as if we’re living high off the hog. The three of us only eat our meals together when we go to a restaurant. Most of the time we are pretty much eating solo, and often in front of the tv or with a newspaper glued to our faces. Not that there is anything wrong with this picture. It’s just not the picture I imagined at all, and not quite as conventional as it seems at first. I’m not sure I am any closer to what I thought I’d be doing, which is being a full time artist with some sort of income from sales, than I was on graduation day.

When I read about artists who reached any sort of success at a young age I am absolutely dumbfounded. I would have a better idea of how to become a four star general, or a street cleaner or a high powered lawyer than I understand how to have an art career. I might know more now than I did back in art school, but it’s still pretty much a mystery to me. Why some people make it and others never do. How some people make a living at their art even if the average person has never heard of them. How an artist might work steadily and with dedication for decades without anyone being aware of their existence.

Of course, I don’t know how some women manage to marry men who keep them in furs and vacation homes.  Pretty much everything about life is a mystery to me and that’s the way it’s always been. I never can figure things out on my own. I’ll watch a magic show over and over and even have someone stand and show me how it’s done, and it’s STILL a mystery. In a way that can be a good characteristic. If life holds mystery then things are always a wonder when they work. But mostly it leaves me feeling rather stupid. My i.q. score is off the charts. Crazy high. But you would never know that if you watched what I did all day. Or if you knew it, you would think it was sad that someone so smart was living such an odd and disorganized life.

I think I could use a mentor. Someone to show me the ropes even at this late stage of my life. I wrote to Louise Bourgeois when she was alive, asking her outright if she could explain a few things to me about the art world, but she never wrote back. I wrote on a beautiful piece of paper. . . turquoise I think. I suppose I didn’t really expect her to invite me to a nice lunch, sit me down and show me the ropes. But I had hoped for some words of encouragement on her personal stationary.I just found out today that someone I know knows an artist who was given a show in a Chelsea gallery, on the ground level, because she was an abstract painter from Germany, and that fit exactly what the gallery owner wanted to show. I mean, how can learn to just be the right person at the right time?

Oh well. I am not unhappy in my life. I only wish I had something to be proud of, something my mom could brag about. Somehow walking the dog and even having the best child in the world doesn’t feel like enough. I don’t feel like I have accomplished anything solid. I am not living a life of quiet desperation. But I am not living a life that feels at all mysterious. The mystery is . . . what exactly happened between 1980 and 2010? Where am I, how did I get here, and how can I get to the place I intended to be?

the Devil and Me

September 4, 2010

I am fifty – two and it is looking more and more like I am not going to have much of an art career, even though it’s what I went to college for and what I have pursued for the past thirty years. If I had died as young as Eva Hesse or Kieth Haring I would not even be a blip on anyone’s radar. Louise Bourgeois just got going at about my age, but once she started to show her work, at around age fifty, she was a success.

So, I decided that if I could, I would sell my soul to the Devil. But then I thought, would I really do whatever the Devil wanted? I don’t think I could bear his Devil baby, like Rosemary did. I wouldn’t want anyone to get hurt. There’s no way the Devil could talk me into voting in a national election for a republican, or a tea party candidate. So, what do I really have to offer?

Then I thought, well, if the Devil is just reaching too high, maybe I could find someone sleezy but extremely wealthy man to have a quickie affair with. I’d discuss it with my husband but I am sure that he is willing to let me have a night or two with some rich bastard if it would secure me a nice book deal with a six figure payoff up front. Like that woman who slept with Bernie Madoff. I’m sure not many people have read her book, and her boyfriend is in prison, but what does she care? She got paid to tell “her story” and what is there to the story? The problem is that I’m a little old to offer myself up to anyone except to maybe a very very old man. Perhaps an eighty year old? And how do I meet an eighty year old wealthy man who is famous enough to ensure me money if people find out I did it with him? I don’t think I really travel in the right circles, nor do I look like Grace Kelly. So, it’s a problem.

If I did find someone to bribe me I would want a guarantee of time at MacDowell, and money to make sure my family has a clean house while I am gone. Then I would like some cold hard cash for nice clothes, regular pedicures, and money to purchase supplies. And of course, I would like some of my work published. And a show someplace, like Pace or Barbara Krakow or even Pierogi. I don’t even think that’s much to ask.

Meanwhile, I am thinking of ways to create something so out of the realm of anything ever done before that it will put me smack in the center of the art map. I am writing the entire text of Joyce’s Ulysses on yellow rubber gloves, with black Sharpie pens. This is not easy and I have double vision to contend with. I am hoping that when I am done, or even mid way someone will find out about this and want to show it and want to give me time to finish it sometime this decade. I’m on page eighty and I’ve been working on it since around February of last year. Of course if I could get a damn residency I could probably reach page three hundred in around three weeks of working on it all the time. But I can’t seem to get one. So I work on the gloves in half hour increments each day. Sometimes I’ll work on it for forty five minutes in a day, but my eyes give out or the dog needs to be walked or I have to buy food or go to work or something. Or all of those things.

Well Devil, if you see my blog, you let me know what I would have to do for a BIG career and some cash, and I’ll let you know if I can deliver for you. As long as hell doesn’t involve cold weather, or republicans, or Glen Beck, or Sarah Palin, or Fox News, or no tv at all. Oy. Really, none of those things appeal to me as an eternal punishment. I guess I could take the cold if it wasn’t too cold. Maybe one republican because I could make them as miserable as they make me. But not Glen Beck.

Let me know. My phone is never busy.