Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Finally, Some New Work...

Rough Winter...

It really was a tough winter. ( and last couple of years...) It started last summer where fatigue had taken over my life. I was supposed to start at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University In Boston in the Fall. (That's a long damn name for a college! How are they going to fit that on a sticker for the back window of your car?) I had some huge shows planned and thought that I'd come up with what little money that I hadn't received in grants and scholarships without a problem. I had had some fatigue issues as well as some joint and muscle pain over the course of the last few years, but had been brushing them off as a distracting annoyance. Doctors hadn't found anything, and they were running out of tests. Through a series of mishaps my big shows were falling through one by one. By the time August came around the heat induced fatigue that I was feeling had pretty much shut my ability to work down. Feeding myself and showering were about as much as I could handle and any slight act quickly became too exerting and ended up in a much needed nap time.

A couple of weeks into August I started dropping my paint brush... A lot. I could barely hold onto it. And, when I did hold it it felt like my wrist was broken. The Doctor scheduled an MRI and the SMFA ( that fits on a sticker!) deferred my enrollment. In September I started classes again at the local community college so that I wouldn't have to start paying back my fafsa loans. One class was a lecture series that I thought would be an easy A. We sat and looked at slides of Art and discussed them for three hours a week. Trying to look at that screen and take notes in a dimly lit classroom made me realize that I couldn't see. No, really, like, at all! I hadn't read much since finals. Over the course of the summer, my vision had not just faded, but had become lousy, and the light from the projector and the glare from the screen made it worse. It was October before I got in for that MRI. The conclusion; MS. The diagnosis left me reeling for a bit. How can you be an artist when you can't hold a paintbrush, or see what the hell you're doing? 

When you start believing that everything is going to go wrong, it does. A couple weeks later, my dog died, then I lost my health insurance a week before I was supposed to meet with the Neurologist, then something else, and something else... ( things too personal to tell to strangers reading my blog, but if you want to buy me a beer I'd be happy to sit and talk about it for a while. ) 

Ironically, during my series of interviews with the Museum School, I had a discussion with one of the admissions counselors about how I was an Artist with a lack of angst. I told them that my life was good and that my work, unlike some artists, was not an emotional release, but a haven, my safe place, a dream. I think  that there may be some angst now.

I have never told this to anyone, but when I can't paint, I end up in a dark place, a very dark and scary place. I start to think of ways to get out of that place. When I go to bed at night in this very dark and scary place, and know that I'm going to wake up in the same very dark and scary place, I start to wish that I just won't wake up, that not waking up is my way out. I don't necessarily contemplate killing myself, but wouldn't hesitate to welcome death should it knock on my door. This is a place that I've been to many times before; standing on the edge, looking out over the darkness. It is this place, my fear of it, and contempt for it, that gave me the courage to say,"Fuck it!", and ignore others disapproval of my choice to live as an Artist, to ignore their telling me to grow up and get a real job, to ignore the fear of possible homelessness and self-imposed poverty, and embark on a path towards my dream. This time, to deal with all the shit, the heartache, the worry, and uncertainty, the fear of losing it,  I stepped back from the edge and painted.

I can't see a pencil line, so there are no sketches. The color in my left eye has faded to near grays. My hand throbs as I hold a brush, my knees and feet ache as I stand on the concrete floor of my studio. Yet, I stand there, with a patch over my left eye, a cane in my left hand, and my paintbrush duct taped to my right, and I fucking paint. My whole life I have dreamt of being an Artist. When someone asks me what I do for a living, "I am an Artist,"is what I tell them. Until that moment where the pain didn't matter, that moment when you're willing to lie on a cold concrete floor and paint with your canvas lying next to you because you are no longer able to stand, the moment where you have to lift your legs out of bed and place your burning, tingling feet gently on the floor, wait for them to be able to hold your weight, and walk down stairs slowly, one step at a time, back to that cold hard floor to do it again, and again, and again, to finish your work. Until that moment saying that I was an Artist was all lip service. Until that moment I was never truly an Artist. But now, I know I've never been anything but. 

If you look back over my blog, you'll see that my painting has never been perfect. It wasn't about the finished product as much as it was about the learning process. Looking at the pictures of my work on here myself, I cringe at some, still like others, and learned a bit from each of them. Betty Carroll Fuller, my painting instructor for two semesters always told me to loosen up. It was hard to do then, but now, I have no choice. My paintings are a far cry from the idilic little Cape Cod scenes that I painted to sell to tourists. There is an underlying darkness. They are abstract. They are bolder than anything that I have tried before. They are of a process that is still evolving. I'm not sure if they are even good yet. But, they are real. They come from somewhere inside and I will face anything that comes my way to get them out. 

Here are some of my recent experiments. They are a far cry from old attempts, yet I can see a logical progression. They don't come as quickly and easily as they used to, while I once painted hundreds and hundreds of paintings a year, they now trickle out slowly and randomly, one or two a month, even on my best months.  Please take a look and tell me what you think of them in the comments section.

12" x 12" x 2"
acrylic on mahogany panel

Untitled Tryptic 
36" x 10" x 2"
acrylic on mahogany panel

24" x 24" x 2"
acrylic on mahogany panel

36" x 30" x 2"
acrylic on mahogany panel

36" x 24" x 2"
acrylic on mahogany panel

(painting at the top:
12" x 12' x 2"
acrylic on mahogany panel)

Thanks for reading!

Let me know what you think.