Dear Artist Family and Appreciators,
I’ll start by apologizing for my neglect in getting a newsletter out for October. I had so much happening I had to let a few things slip through the cracks. But it wasn’t that you weren’t on my mind. You were. Art was. Life was. So many things. All these lists I am marking through and adding to daily. The calendar with all its ink leaving a history of events that were moved, cancelled, changed…
This year has been something of a tornado. Despite the cancellations, how it is that I’m busier than ever remained a mystery.
Then, it happened. I had an opportunity to leave everything on my desk and walk away for a month.
So I worked in earnest to set everything up where I wasn’t going to be in trouble upon my return. Bills lined up and other systems in place to take care of things in my absence. Much harder than it sounds. I packed my art gear, a duffle of clothes and my coffee pot and set out on the adventure of a lifetime. A residency. A time just for my art, not alllll the myriad of aspects of the career, but just the making of it. The contemplation of technique and nuance that my scattered days didn’t allow for. I settled in, and alas, all the ghosts of the complicated career path I willingly stepped into lay heavy and in the forefront of my mind. It literally took two weeks for the burden to lift and thanks to the lack of internet access, something wasn’t reminding me constantly of the world outside.
About a week in, I discovered a wealth of emotion I couldn’t put my finger on. It was coming from everywhere. Discord in friendships, the workload, the closing of a very important gallery connection of more than a decade, time marching, people leaving the planet, the monsters of hate and bigotry and complete lack of critical thinking looming larger by the minute… There was certainly plenty of reason for tears. The world outside is enough to drown goodness and gratitude if we allow it. Instead, for me, I guess all of that difficulty goes in a pile around my heart until a tool to deal with it comes into view.
Step one, leave.
Step two, sit in your madness.
Step three, identify it and own it.
Step four, breathe light and space into it.
Step five, see what was under there….
Beneath all of that, below the artificial façade that allows you to push through, is the stuff, the pain, all of it. Beneath the stuff is belief that something can happen to ease discomfort and right wrongs. Beneath the belief is authenticity. There are so many filters and the burdens of life on top of that genuine authenticity, I wondered if I would ever recognize it if I saw it again.
So I painted some more. I had a huge wall to tape and pin my paintings to. The painting I did the day after I arrived hung first, followed in sequence with the other 17 paintings I did over that time. Everything I just told you here was spelled out a day at a time on that wall. I even resisted the urge to assign a name to them to keep from attaching vocabulary to a feeling. I simply numbered them GR1, GR2... I began to see my authenticity emerging. I was no longer painting based on posting on social media, hoping for a good response. I wasn’t concerned if these paintings were going to be desired by a gallery or painting something I hoped someone would want to add to their collection. I was doing what I did when I was 5. I was painting out of shear joy and to simply see where it would lead. The paintings, to my eye, got better with each passing day and I was painting in a way I had wished for myself when I would sit back and criticize my still wet work, always looking for something illusive to attain a result I couldn’t even describe.
I think that’s what I found. I really think I did. The gift of time and absence of the rest of the world gave me just enough time to touch into that precious place to know it was still there waiting for me.
What did I learn? Well beyond the fact that I saw first hand, that our child nature, our passion based simply on our goodness and tendency toward beauty never leaves. It lives in us. We create very complicated lives and mourn the loss of it, but in truth, it never abandons us.
I learned that quiet, and unplugging doesn’t have to wait for permission, we simply must seize it and own it, if not for a month, for a waking hour. I learned that I had no idea at all how burdened with obligation I had allowed myself to become. I didn’t understand that I had designed the very thing that was holding back my ability to be my authentic self, simply because I lost touch of even what that meant.
Why am I sharing all this? I thought a number of times over that month, that if I could make it possible for all my artist friends as well as others, to hit pause long enough to touch in that deeply, it would be the most blessed Christmas there ever was. Short of that, perhaps sharing just the surface of this experience would have some of you contemplating your own well meaning, well constructed lives and check in to see how your authentic self was doing.
Identify what matters, make sure those things are secure, then go check on your heart…
Blessings and love,
Your humble President.