Monday, December 8, 2008

A Visit With the Artist


I opened my art supply cabinet this evening just to smell inside.  The heady scent of paints and glues and pastels and solvents and rubber rollers and metal tools and... so many wondrous playthings... lifted me momentarily away.  They say scent is the strongest memory trigger, the first frontier of romantic connection, the bond between mother and child.  For me, breathing my art supplies had not been my intention. I had just wanted to visit them. But as I shut the doors and walked away I realized I had really wanted to inhale them, be carried away by them, so that their magic could linger with me as I ease out of my long day of job hunting.

We are traveling to Mass MoCA this week-end to see LAVA (http://www.lavalove.org) perform there - and I have asked for time to visit the galleries.  There is a Sol Lewitt retrospective. He was a big influence in the 70's when I attended the Hartford Art School and did my share of conceptual, minimalist art.  A couple of my pieces could stand up pretty well next to his, I think.  Viewing the website for the show I casually observed what I have always told my kids - you can't be a great (or famous) artist without being prolific.  Artists need to create a body of work - a dialogue with society, or with themselves at the very least - that takes them through an evolution of style, theory, or intention.  I want to be prolific! I have so much to do - so many paintings to paint - but, being a single mother of six, my little spurts of art have barely been able to squeeze in... between doctor visits and crock pot suppers and loads of laundry. 

I want to create wonderful large paintings, the subject of which I have not yet seen anywhere and I still feel the world is calling for it from me.  But this is the stuff of leisurely hours... evenings and week-ends that are not chock full of obligations and giddy or tearful teenagers, car repairs, financial aid applications... People who want to "have it all" are always so disappointed at some point. I have never tried to have it all. I knew that my children were my best creation, biggest achievement, greatest reward.  I'm not sorry.

But I feel the seasons changing. My baby turned 18 recently, and a new job may take me away physically.  They can all get around without my taxi service. They can all boil an egg or spread their own peanut butter. They can all use a phone if they need me.  Will they resent me so very much if I am not right here waiting to catch them when a romance fails or they catch the flu?  Will I mind not being that steady, ever present, ever constant compass for them... or can we all accept a modified version of reliability?  I am wishing for this.

So maybe soon, maybe very soon, I'll get a new job, wake up very early on a Saturday morning, and re-visit the art supply cabinet.  I'll open it slowly as I breathe deeply in, and exhale my longing. I'll let my eyes caress the contents on every shelf, then gently remove some yellow ochre, dark umber, and cadmium red... and make myself a warm swirl of rebirth as an artist.

1 comment:

Diana said...

"Artists need to create a body of work - a dialogue with society, or with themselves at the very least - that takes them through an evolution of style, theory, or intention."

Thank you for reminding me what my focus should be. I have just this last few years turned my efforts in that direction.

I know how you felt when opening that supply cabinet. I was mostly "away" from my art not just for my children, but eventually for full time work in commercial art (not the same feeling as fine art).

3 1/2 years ago I retired early and began my own work. My effort has been up and down because, even though my daughters are 31 and 34, their lives are even more dramatic and sometimes make even larger demands on my time than when they where small.

My youngest just had my first grandchild, a girl. Imagine how hard it is to focus on yourself during a threatened pregnancy! I got NOTHING done for myself.

But now they are both fine I am just now going back into the studio. If I don't find a way to make money from my art, I will be searching for a job again very soon. And after 23 years of work consuming my life, I really hope I don't have to do that again. Plus unemployment in my area is very high, so it may not be easy to find work.

Sorry to go on, it's just that I saw your comment on Brazen Careerist and it struck a chord with me.