Posts- and attention to my website in general- are few and far between. My primary reasons are a.) I don’t do a lot of interesting art things, b.) I don’t make art often enough, and c.) I don’t feel inspired to write. But occasionally, I do feel inspired. The inhibitor for reason #c is usually that writing about my art means getting personal, and being a teacher in the community in which I live is yet another great inhibitor to getting personal. It seems that I am a person with many inhibitions.
But today, without use of expletives or snarky attitudes, I choose to un-build just a few stones in the wall around my personal life and, therefore, my art. There is something romantic about being private and hording talent- not that I’m saying there’s hordes of talent here to squirrel away, mind you- but no one discovers that quiet beauty until you’re dead, and people can get a little too free with the romance when re-assembling your life for the masses once you don’t have a mouth to say anything about it.
Life can be messy. Either in the day-to-day sense of errands and people, or because of great upheavals. I can count on both hands the bigger messes my family or friends have been through in just the past year, not including global or natural disasters, of which we have had a great number. And for someone to whom growing up has not been an easy adjustment (I still feel like I’m dragging my 8-year-old self over hot coals when I have to do any kind of routine chore), it makes the whole of adulthood seem scary. Not that I’m exaclty new to adulthood- given the opportunity to go back in time, I would definitely tell my 21-year-old self to stop whining, put on your big girl pants and pick up a paintbrush or a broom. The scary part is life’s unpredictability, and that the older you get, the less older people are around to catch you when the great upheavals happen. It’s been over a year since my grandfather died, which put my cousins and I in the generation slot that our parents were just occupying. It was a shock to them and to us. And since I said I wouldn’t use expletives, I give the reader artistic license to get romantic about what we had to say about that realization.
So it seems that with growing up there needs to be a certain amount of “doing things right,” which I believe most people refer to as “responsibility.” But I mean the things that take responsibility to the level of dogma- at least, that’s how I see it. Small social norms that are like a microclimate- particular to one small community. Or education, and how we should think about or create something. (This may be dangerous territory, since I am a teacher. But hey, it’s a stone in the wall, and it’s coming down. Look out below.) I can (obviously) reflect most directly on how I was taught to create art. Fortunately, I had mostly supportive teachers and professors. But there is this unspoken but acknowledged sense of looking-down-upon certain subject matters, techniques, and anything over-done or formulaic. Okay, I have gotten on my soapbox about about artists that just crank out piece after piece of the same subject in the same style- just do something different, already! Enough with the landscapes! But what if… just what if… I don’t want my drawing to be high contrast? What if I don’t want it to be resolved? Or abstract? Or edgy? What if I just want it to be… nice to look at? Not match-the-couch nice (boy, have I got a soapbox about that!), but pretty on its own? What if… I don’t care what any other artist is doing, and I don’t want to reference them, their style, or make a comment on social issues or art history? What if I don’t want to be…. Postmodern?
Okay, so inner 8-year-old likes to make herself heard- “I don’t wanna!” But because there is so much information, bias, discrimination, trends, and influence packed around most subjects- and many professions- it makes it difficult to just reach in my head and pull out the art that wants to live. I make the next statement without offense or righteousness: I don’t know if it’s what people want. And because art mirrors life- or the other way around, both work in this case- that may mean that my art, and therefore my life, may become unusual. Not freakishly unusual, but… risky. Not skydiving, but straining to listen to the still, small voice. Reason gets in the way. In this case, reason doesn’t help, it just makes sense a lot more loudly than intuition, and needs a sound talking-to.
I know that this is not a big deal. Lots of people know these things already, and they are pretty obvious. Many people believe in following your dreams, being brave, taking risks, and are generally behind the sentiment to allow one’s freak flag to fly. But the knowing of such things can’t just occupy your head… realizations take up residence in your body. I spent most of today in an idyllic fashion: pancakes for breakfast, lots of reading, drawing, painting, Pintrest. But I couldn’t avoid the laundry. Not just because it was getting rather piled up- I am not philosophically opposed to doing laundry. Reason- that obnoxious quantifier of my time- asked me what I would have to show for the day, and it just would not be satisfied with an almost-finished drawing. Artwork that’s actually finished can rake in a little cash, but it generally doesn’t do the dishes or wash my very limited supply of pants. Art vs. responsibility. (See why growing up has rankled so much? Gag.) Why do either of them have to be such a heavy thing? Do I have to take sides? And once I take a side, will I have the energy for completing the other? Will I have the will? Okay, so I did do two loads. The bathtub was getting full. But then I still put a little paint on the palette. A little Liquin. Mixed some cobalt with white. And during the spin cycle, I put that brush on my painting of the red maple, which has been a three-year work in progress. And while I was standing on my desk chair to reach its spot on the wall (the studio is a tight space, since it is actually my bedroom), it occurred to me that this painting was mine. Like, really mine. Regardless of whether or not someone buys it, likes it, or ever sees it. That’s me on the canvas, free from whatever I was taught about art. Or, rather, pushed there because of it. And just the act of putting some paint on the brush (turquiose, straight from the tube! hah!) and moving it around the canvas is a small miracle. It gives me the strength for laundry, not to mention the bigger things- like cleaning out Pop Pop’s apartment after the funeral, or babysitting so my sister can take her daughter to CHOP. It is only a little less essential than breathing. I looked down from the paintbrush for a moment and saw Flip, neck extended, watching me intently, and I very nearly heard her say, “Yeah Mom, you got it. About time.”