Archive for the ‘thoughts’ Category

Multitasking

April 30, 2019

I think everyone has days or hours where you have to make calls and go through prompts spoken by machine leading you to more prompts until you get a human.

I had to call a bank, or a calling center for a bank, to close a savings account which contained $27.01. To be more specific, it was for my mother’s account. To be yet more specific, for my mother who is no longer alive.

I had let the bank know when my mom died last November. I wasn’t doing anything wrong but I felt like I was.

I was officially on her account because she had pretty much lost her ability to do things like make bank transactions. Also, feed herself, remember whether or not she ate, remember who was President, what day of the week it was, hour of the day, day or night. Things like that.

I knew I would have to wait a long time to speak to someone.

It cost $5.00 a month to keep the account. But even when it goes down to zero you are charged $5.00 a month for all eternity. So I wanted to be a responsible adult and close this account properly. By the book.

When I finally got a human I said something very wrong. I said she was alive. I don’t know why I said it. Somewhere deep in my brain I thought it would speed up the process. Instead, in an instant, my computer said we had no dollars anywhere. The account was frozen. I was being transferred to a different, higher department. A department for evil children of dead parents.

I sweartogod, in that moment, I believed the police would be knocking at my door. I believed I had screwed up so mightily that if my mother were alive she would disown me. I hung up on the higher, scarier department.

I had one day to fix this. Half the day was over. I have a weekday off every other week. I also had to get a signature guaranteed for some other important thing relating to my mom no longer being alive. This same day.

I started to cry.

I called back willing myself to fix this wrong. I had to go through the same waiting process as before. As I was crying and feeling like someone should just shoot me for being so bloody stupid I did the only productive thing I could think of to do while my ear was tethered to a phone. I scrubbed the toilets. We have three. They all needed scrubbing. I scrubbed the bowls and wiped the lids on top and bottom, and dusted off the part where the innards are hidden.

Eventually someone came on the line. It seemed like the very lowest of the phone people was waiting for me because I was put right through to the scary high level department. I was still crying. I felt like the stupidest most inept person ever. I was not a fraud or a theif. I was afraid no one would believe me.

But I got the kindest woman who treated me as though I had called the suicide hotline instead of the bank. Or maybe a suicide hotline AT the bank. She kept saying “are you still with me Jess??”. She knew I was sad about mom (though in truth it has been five months since she died and mostly I feel numb) and she went on to tell me that I will remember my mom and she would be with me always.

If she knew my mom, Mona, she would know that I would be on the wrong side of a violent temper. Had Mona been able to witness this fiasco she would have called me an imbecile, a retard, an idiot. The same words she used for herself when she started to forget things. She’d rather have believed she was witless than accept that she had dementia.

At any rate, this kind woman eventually transferred me to a kind man named Scott. Scott said everything would be okay except that I had to download forms, get them notarized, scan and send them to the bank. This day.

I went to the library where I have a friend who I knew could do what I needed to do. I signed forms and got notarized and scanned and e mailed the documents. Then I went to get my signature guaranteed. I waited. In the end, I was unable to do this because I needed things I did not have. There is always something you don’t have.

I went home and looked at my mom’s accounts on my computer and saw numbers, instead of zero’s. But I was still afraid so I decided I needed to hear everything really was okay from Scott himself.

I called the bank again and I waited until I reached Scott. While I waited, hearing the same jazz like tune on a loop, I put away all the laundry, folded the towels, washed the dishes, cleaned off our counters and put away papers and tchotchkes.

Scott assured me that the documents had come through and everything wrong was righted.

I have not been okay for the past few years. I fall apart esily. But it’s good to know that when I am in panic mode, with tears falling, there is a Scott and the kind woman at Capital One and my house will end up a little cleaner.

When life is too filled with these kind of chores, the kind of chores that come in Manila envelopes when someone close to you has died, that seemed designed to trip you and make you feel small and incapable, it is good to have a scrub brush. Cleaning toilets is a chore that I can do and I know I won’t ruin it. I know I won’t hurt anyone. If I don’t scrub enough or I miss some dirt, I will get it the next time.

It gives me comfort.

The toilets are clean. I’ll soon get a check for $27.01.

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A New Day

October 14, 2016

“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”

― L.M. Montgomery.


My life at the moment is about learning to accept daily the mistakes I make, other people make and their after effects.

For even in a brand new unblemished day, you have to live with the consequences of all your previous wrongs. Sometimes it feels overwhelming.

In my artwork I have tried to explore, allow, and appreciate mistakes. My drawings and paintings look so careful, and in a way, perfect. But they are not. I am not Bridget Riley, or Tess Jaray, or Julian Stanczak. I don’t even know how they do what they do.

In my brick drawings I don’t use a ruler. Every single brick is a slightly different size. Most do not line up as they should. No structure could survive if it were built with the bricks I draw. I try as hard with these drawings to ALLOW these errors as I try in my non art life to be perfect. It’s a challenge. A part of me feels a pull to use a ruler, to keep each brick the same as the next. It is the same feeling I had with my slinky series. I had to fight the urge to check the circles with a compass. I have to fight my desire to control, to be ‘perfect’.

I know my art work is stronger with these imperfections. What would be the point of making perfect bricks or perfect circles when artists have already done that, and done it brilliantly?

But navigating life outside my studio, where I have to exist with rules and parameters, with hearts, minds, souls, individuals, I think it would be better if I could control more of myself. I used to think I was more interesting when I let loose, said what I thought, tossed off opinions even if I hadn’t thought them through. I no longer believe this.
These days, I try every day I try not to offend people, to do well at my day job, to be kind to my mother who is barely my mother, to be a good friend, citizen, wife, mother, pet owner, housekeeper. Each day I am not all that successful at any of these things. I hate myself for it. I can’t seem to find a balance between being myself, and being what I think I am supposed to be.

I can forgive the imperfect me. But only in my art.

Your Reputation Preceeds You. 

August 27, 2016

I was known as a fighter. In my teens, my 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, and even into my 50’s people have seen me as someone who would not shy away from a confrontation. I was the truth teller. I once picked a fight with a robot at an Auto Fair. 

Let me tell you, that person, if she ever was, no longer exists. Truly. I raise the white flag. You can knock me over with a feather. 

I might have a bit of fight left for causes bigger than me. For Black Lives Matter, for equal rights, for my child. But for anything personal? Feel free to just take what you want from me. I am not thinking about revenge, about vindication, about getting back at anyone. I do not wish anyone harm. I don’t imagine in my wildest dreams hurting anyone. I was never the sort to be interested in throwing a punch anyway. I used words to fight. 

Still this reputation follows me. I am begging you, let this image of me go. I was never really that person and I am less that person now. Have at me. I surrender. 

To See or Not to See

August 11, 2016

skinny me

Too see or not to see.

To seek help or

soldier on, chin up, through this deep groove in my life.

That is the question.

I have waffled for months, trying to decide whether or not to go back to my therapist. I adore my therapist, but that isn’t a good reason to see him. When I saw him last October, there was no question. I made that call, sobbed through three appointments, and told him I thought I would be able to manage, to be okay.

The relationship between therapist and patient comes with strict rules, mostly to protect the patient, who is vulnerable. I trust this man, and he trusts me. When I told him at the the end of that third session I felt I could carry on, he trusted me. I’m not so sure now we were right.

I checked on line to see if I qualified for seeking help.

I actually look good on paper.

I sleep.

I take care of my appearance.

I can do my job (well).

My house is reasonably clean.

I don’t cry every day anymore.

All good.

Still, I am not quite myself. Mostly it is a food thing. I seem to have developed a bit of an eating disorder, which is kind of funny. It’s funny because when I was in my 30’s, and considerably chubbier, almost all my friends were gay men. Once, when I was meeting them for dinner, or a frolic, Chris said I looked a bit heavy. I was mortified. From then on I trained them to say, every time we got together, “Jessica, You’re looking a little anorexic.”

Now the word some of my friends use is “gaunt”. I have my own private reason for not eating much and that reason still exists. But, basically I am fine.

Thus the waffle.

If I could just eat the waffle, I’d be set.

 

 

Six Days

June 28, 2016

 

image

I have a six day residency right here in Cranston, RI. I didn’t have to apply for this opportunity. There were no fees. I didn’t have to write a statement about why I need the time and how it would change my career.

I  had only to convince myself that I should not feel guilty even though there is no prestige attached to this residency.  Making the decision was the hardest part, but is done. My shifts have been filled.

I have been rejected this past year for grants and residencies from some of the best. The MacDowell Colony, the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, the R.I.S.D. Musuem, and the always reliable for rejection, RI State Council on the Arts. I have written statements for applications that have made me cry. It wasn’t enough.

I’ll have to walk my dog. I’ll do the wash and vacuum. I’ll water my flowers and grass. I won’t have anyone fixing me breakfast and dinner, nor will any baskets of lunch be left outside my studio door. I won’t have the built in community of like minded people. But I’ll  wake to day after glorious day of hours to be a full time artist.

It’s been a bruising year for me. But there is this:

Dear Jessica, congratulations. I look forward to seeing what you’ll do when you have six days to do what you love.  Have a wonderful time. 

My residency will begin July 3rd and end at the end of July 8th.

Six days. Congratulations Jess. You’re in.

 

 

 

Unfortunate Timing.

February 1, 2016

broken There was a television show I liked very much called Once and Again. It was a quiet show, basically a family drama. In one of the last episodes of the series, a character named Karen, who has had a rough time of it, gets very depressed. Unable to help herself alone, she eventually seeks the help of a therapist. It’s a slow process, climbing back into life, but she does it. One day, near the end of a therapy session, she laughs about something inconsequential, and she knows she will be okay. She knows she will be happy. But before she has a chance to announce her return from the dark side to her family and friends; before she has time to enjoy the lightness of being she has worked to achieve, she is hit by a car.

This was on my mind last night as I struggled to feel comfortable enough to sleep with my recently broken shoulder.

I’d spent the last 4 months trying to regain my sense of joie de vivre. I had been so sad, so crushed by an unexpected event and for a while there, even though I knew I would be okay, it seemed to be taking much longer than it should have. I was scared of never feeling really joyful again.

Then, like an unexpected delivery of flowers, there it was. I felt a surge of inner strength, a desire to move forward and a belief that I could not only heal, but be BETTER. Feeling this was was joyful in and of itself. I’d come home during an 8 hour shift to walk Alice, check e mail, and head back to work. It was dark, but not the dark of December. It was cold, but not icy cold. I was happy to walk my dog and I was enjoying the pop tunes playing in my ear thanks to my trusty old i pod. I was aware that I felt happy the way you are aware of health after a long illness. Alice and I were just a few houses from our own red door. There was some residual snow and ice from Rhode Island’s one real snowfall, but for the most part the remaining patches were almost pathetc. They certainly were no match for this new me, drunk on happiness. I had boots on, with treads. My left hand held Alice’s leash and my right hand was in my coat pocket, wrapped around the I pod. I stepped on one of those small spots of ice. I lost my balance and fell forward. I knew I was broken.

This is the first time in my life I have ever broken a bone. It is the humerus, a common break according to Google. During that four month period when I was so sad, I kept hoping for some small something bad to happen to me. Nothing too serious, or too long term. But something that would allow me to have time to cry, to be weak without being seen as weak. I wanted a little t.l.c., a little extra kindness. I craved a chance to just step out of my life for a few days. It’s ironic then that on this day when I was glad for my strength and resolve, I was taken out by a 6 inch circle of ice.

There is no moral to the story. It was an accident. My plans for moving forward are put on hold. I did not break my arm because I was under stress. I broke it because I fell on cement. I know I’ll be able to resume my plans when my bone heals. I was happy and that happiness is not going away. In spite of the pain I have now, and the weeks of recovery ahead of me, I know that happiness is inside of me. It just has to wait a bit longer to reveal itself. I can wait.

 

Moral Compass

October 7, 2015

Inspector Foyle

Inspector Foyle

Daddy

daddy

I have been knocked off course.

I need an ally like my father, or D.C.S. Christopher Foyle, to help me find my way.

My dad was the only person I have known who could actually change a person’s mind about something they thought they believed without ever raising his voice.

When I was in first or second grade at St. Hilda’s & St. Hughes Sister Mary Margaret was angry at me. I was terrified. She can’t have been more than 4″5″ but she was a nun, and nuns are fierce. I was afraid to go back to class. My father said he would come with me to school and clear up any misunderstanding. That prospect terrified me even more than the tiny but furious Sister Margaret. My dad was insistent. He was at least 5’10” and he had on a suit and tie. He looked impressive, strong, tall. He held my little hand and we walked into my classroom together. I sat at my desk. He strode up to Sister Margaret’s desk and leaned down to her. I don’t know what he said because it was a quiet exchange, but I had no more trouble from Sister Margaret. And I felt the way every child lucky enough to have a parent who believes them feels. I felt stronger.

My dad died in 2007 and I have found myself thinking of him, needing him in a way I had not when he was sick. His illness was long and by the time of his death I was not stunned. I was exhausted. Our whole family was tired, depleted by the medical community, by mismanaged care, by faulty diagnosis. I felt grown up, fully adult. I was a wife, a mother.

I have been thinking about my set of adults because certainly I should know some heavyweights by now. But somehow when you are supposed to be the wise grown up you feel small. When something happens to knock you for a loop you want to turn to someone with wisdom, gravitas, inner strength, and age.

Thus my love of Christopher Foyle. Nearly every night since I have been engaged in this dilemma I sit with my husband to watch 90 minutes of Foyle’s War. Last night he sent a priest off to be hanged. Of course, the bad guy was not really a priest. He was a German spy. But Foyle was not intimidated by the irritation of the clergy who tried to shoo him away, nor by the idiot superior who had to beg Foyle to come out of retirement to fix his blunders. He was quiet, wise, kind, strong, clear, and ethical. I want to reach inside my t.v. set and pull him out into my world, just until this is sorted out. I know he would immediately see wrong from right.

Alas my dad is not alive. Mr. Foyle is really Michael Kitchen and he is not available to help me.

But I know right from wrong.

I, along with my husband and my very excellent friends will have to be the adults. I have to be my own compass. My dad gave me the tools I need. I just have to find true north, and follow the arrow. It will be okay. And when my son finds himself faced with his own Sister Mary Margaret, or something more formidable, I’ll be his adult.

compass+old

Every Day

June 20, 2015

routine

[roo-teen]
 
 noun
1.

a customary or regular course of procedure.
2.

commonplace tasks, chores, or duties as must be done regularly or at specified intervals; typical or everyday activity:

the routine of an office.
3.

regular, unvarying, habitual, unimaginative, or rote procedure.
IMG_0997
My daily routine:
Wake at 9.
Walk Alice.
Make coffee.
Work. Drink wine. Work.
Go to bed.
     I am drawn to books and movies about people who have routines and who sometimes become the notable person they are because of them. Some find the idea of doing the same thing each and every day depressing and limiting. But I see a romance in it.
I like quiet stories of transformation by people who are extremely disciplined and evolve into a zen master of their lives.
     An example is What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by Haruki Murikami. He was already a brilliant success. But I loved reading his account of going from a jazz club owner with a terrible smoking habit and a soft belly to a writer who runs nearly every day in every sort of weather. In his short, beautiful memoir he writes about starting by just jogging a few steps each day, and how difficult it was to do even that. He would put his sneakers by his bed each night, so that he would not have a moment to think about doing something else.
I loved reading about Edith Wharton, who wrote each day from 6:00 a.m. until noon, leaving the rest of her days free to live life.    I love reading about the long difficult days of nuns and monks and ballet dancers.
     I remember a novel about a college bound boy in India. He realizes one morning that he has nearly destroyed his chance of going to college by avoiding all the work he should have been doing during the past three years. One morning, so anxious he can barely breathe, he creates a chart mapping out on a neat grid every paper he must write, every book he must read, every test he has to pass, and how many hours he must study in order to set things right. His family is poor so he has to figure out how to do all of this in addition to his chores and family obligations.    He does it. I read that book when I was in my 20’s. It had an ugly blue cover with poorly designed black type and I can’t remember the title. But I’ve never forgotten reading about that boy and feeling like no matter how far off course I’d gotten in my own life I could find my way back if I created a careful plan and worked at it each day.
     My favorite part of  Orange is the New Black (the book, not the television show) is when Piper utilizes the old, neglected race track at the prison,  and during her sad time paying for her crime she runs round and round and round thinking about everything from her own misdeeds to the injustice of prisons in America.
sleeping Alice.
     Sometimes I think that if I could just wake at 5:00 a.m. and leave sleeping Alice next to sleeping Andy on our bed, make my coffee and head to my studio to work for a few hours, I might become the success I think I should be by now. I imagine looking out my studio window at the dark or the light, depending on the time of year, and sitting down to work. I imagine this discipline would carry over into other parts of my life. Like Mr. Murikami and Piper I would also become fit by running each day a little more and a little more.
     The closest I have ever come to putting this plan into action was when I created my Ulysses Gloves. I set about copying all of Ulysses onto Rubber gloves. I worked on it all the time, bringing the Gloves and the book with me when I had to be away from my studio. I wrote on the Gloves at my son’s voice and dance lessons, in airports, at my mother’s home in Brooklyn until I finished. I had an exhibit, and by all measures the finished work is a success. But it did not transform me.  What is it that I want? Do I need to see my name in Art in America? Do I need to have a big award under my belt? None of the people I so admire did the things they did for glory or fame.
     My drawings are often made by repeating a line again and again until a large portion of a page is covered. Even my Boston dealer, who has known me for more than a decade seems surprised at the commitment I have to spending so much time on so detailed and dense, so tedious an artwork. But making these small drawings brings me close to that feeling I seek.  I feel like I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. Sometimes doubt enters my mind and I slow down, or stop. I wonder if the drawing is worth the time after all. It’s a terrible feeling. Most often, when that happens I step away and go back to work later. But every now and then a drawing is a failure, and in spite of days of line making there is nothing left to do but throw the work into my trash bin.
IMG_0852     In addition to my drawings I am currently working on a stitching project that is an homage to my mother, as my Ulysses Glove project was an homage to my dad. I feel completely unsure of this project and it will take years to complete. I worry all the time that the project does not merit the time I’ll put into it. But does that matter? Is my dedication that is the point? I don’t know.
     I’ll keep blogging however inconsistently for my dozen or so followers (and for myself). I’ll keep working on my drawings and my crazy Mona project. Other than that, and walking Alice every day, I’m not sure what to put into my daily routine so that I can morph into the artist I think I should be by now, if it isn’t too late.

My Notebooks

November 16, 2014

I have too many note books. I see them, often at Spoonbill & Sugartown, my favorite bookstore, and I have to have them. They are usually not very expensive. Anywhere from $10 to $30.00. But if I never bought one more I would have enough paper to do drawings till I die, even if I did a drawing every day, which I don’t. And even when I draw every day, each drawing takes weeks. So, I don’t need more. But I love them. Here are a few of my favorites. Most have not been used at all. One is nearly filled.

The flowered notebook is for ideas. I jot down ideas I have for drawings, paintings, everything. I write about housework, dreams, revelations, thoughts that might work as embroideries. I’ll be sad when this book is filled. I bought it at a R.I.S.D. student sale, and foolishly lost the information about who made it. The pages are graphed. I am a sucker for graph paper.

All the other books on this page are empty, for now.

Two note-sketch books This blog is not looking at all the way I hoped it would. I can’t figure out how to make the images do what I want them to do. But I am going to post it because what difference does it really make? This is what happens when I try to be Maira Kalman.

ledger

ledger This book has all sorts of accounting type information, names, red type, numbers. It is glorious.

inside music book 2

inside the Musique book.

inside little turquoise book

Inside the turquoise book. This little book is a work of art as it is. Every single page has a different line design. Like a mass produced Sol Lewitt. I will draw in it someday, but I need to think about what would best suit it. I try not to make the books more precious than the art I want to make in them, but this one is a real challenge. I love it the way it is.

inside music book

Also inside Musique notebook. Another beautiful object, as is.

two more note-sketch books

I might give the Made In Japan notebook away. The pages inside are graphed and are silky to the touch.

The end.

ideas

Ideas

Approximately 186 miles x 2 x 8

July 26, 2014

I am in Brooklyn, again. This is around the 8th time I have come to Brooklyn since April.
This time, my oldest brother Paul is also here (a rarity). There are three of us. My two brothers, Mark and Paul, and me. Mom loves Paul best. It is a fact of our family, and we all know it. It’s fine. So what if when I arrive she completely forgets that I was ever coming, yet when he arrived she waited up until midnight, to let him in? And now, they are out for a nice stroll. I don’t mind, that when I ask if she would like to walk she screams “leave me alone and stop criticizing me!!!!”.

I walked the dog.

At home,I started the Stitching Mom project, barely:

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20140726-162734.jpg
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20140726-164056.jpg

This will be much more of a challenge than the Ulysses Gloves were. That little bit of stitchery took around four hours. I can’t even say why.

I had to take a break from my Ruled Un Ruled series.
Once I start a piece I become obsessed with it. It is all I want to do, and everything else goes out the window.

And that’s fine.

20140726-165210.jpg

<a

It's a beautiful summer day.
Mom is with her golden boy, and it takes some of the pressure off of me. They are still strolling. The dog and I are back.
And that's really fine.