Artist & Writer, San Francisco Bay Area

Left standing, it’ll be all right.

out-of-print book of verse I purchased via eBay last week: Happy Nat’l Poetry Month, I guess!

1. I keep re-starting this art making. Re-starting after having two children (had I ever really stopped?); re-starting after the loss of the adoption we had in progress (my work in the studio became the answer to the hope I’d had anyway, the better choice than having a 3rd child); re-starting after giving myself to the drive for a bone-marrow match for my friends’ daughter… . Now here I am again. Re-starting. Still. I have been working in the studio to varying degrees, I’ve had my work in shows, but it’s been a constant “returning.” Life has interrupted so much that I think I have to stop being surprised. So the choice I have is to get used to it. I want to stop the returning, the turning, the re-booting, the re-whatever. I just want to be. Over & over again I keep being afraid this privilege of artmaking will be taken away. But I want to know that come or go, interruption or no, I will still be here. Doing what I do.
2. In this order…
Winter 2009 thru Fall 2010
Tragic cancer loss of a friend under age 30; sibling got deathly ill (recovered!); friends’ daughter relapsed with leukemia; national campaign for a bone-marrow match for her + continued intense hospitalizations; close friend hospitalized with life threatening illness; then an ‘almost uneventful’ fall 2010 (other than a close call for friends’ little girl).  I re-started again in studio.
All of 2011
In January, close friend diagnosed with breast cancer (in remission!); in March my mother had risky double back surgery with 1 mo. hospitalization (ongoing slowest recovery ever); in Summer, several close calls with losing our friends’ daughter, then father diagnosed with cancer (again! but mostly recovering)… . Then in late December, my friends’ bright, beautiful, creative, brave daughter died at the age of 10.
In January, my husband was seriously injured (ruptured achilles, just this month is back to driving), both children caught something, then I injured my right shoulder (rotator cuff). Probably this was just my body’s way of saying “Enough!”
3. About that injured shoulder. I was forced to use my non-dominant left hand for almost everything. I could almost physically feel activity in parts of my brain that aren’t usually used, like sparks were connecting to make something new. At first when I washed my face with my left hand, I simultaneously felt like I was washing someone else’s face while someone else was washing my face. So much disconnection with my left hand. But I quickly became slightly ambidextrous, and what seemed so unnatural at first became just something I do. Getting used to it. My shoulder is healing, and I am painting again, but I am being Very. Careful.
4. Part of the studio re-entry the past couple years was a necessary look at ways to exhibit my work. Besides making natural connections via Twitter or Facebook, I entered shows and applied to fellowships and grants. Each of these have been crucial in defining my work for myself as I defined it for others. Even updating my website made it possible to clarify my work by themes I’ve been investigating, and I’ve been able to see consistent threads (literally & figuratively) throughout my work. But I was mixed up. While I needed the framework of deadlines for the calendar of scheduling my studio time, I started to think that showing my work was the end I was looking for. Would it be seen? Heard? Understood? But now after many months of not seeking exhibition spaces (or fellowships or grants), I’ve realized that the greatest need I have is just the making itself. The inquiries I make with the materials at hand, the push for meaning in the images at my fingertips, this is what I need. Yes, I want to exhibit my work. Yes, I want to participate in the dialogue. Yes, I want a career out of this thing. But I can’t lose sight of the hours I spend alone in that studio. It means more to me than all the rest. If I can’t stand working without being preoccupied with who will see my work, how can I stand at all?
5. A recent visit to LACMA’s “In Wonderland” (as well as seeing their permanent exhibitions) really brought to mind for me the place that obscure artists play in the art world. Or wait, it’s actually about something else entirely… What place does the recognition of the art world play in the lives of these obscure artists? Did it really matter? For example, I saw the work of Sylvia Fein. (There’s always a big chance that I’m the rare one who doesn’t know a certain artist’s work). Here is this living artist who’s been working since at least the 1940’s. I was moved by her paintings that I saw (here’s one: The Tea Party, 1943.) There were several artists in this exhibition whose work I hadn’t seen (or heard of) before, and I followed with the “where are they now” inquiry. Who are (were) they? Where have they shown? What did they do? The bulk of the work at this show was from 1930-1970. And I found a poem by Hugh Chisholm that was paired with a piece by Kay Sage in a magazine. His poem, so vivid. His name, only in google search with additional terms. (And why are there so many notable Hugh Chisholms anyway?) So what makes a work worth doing, life worth living? Is it what people say about you when you’re gone, or who you are when you are here?
pic of Kay Sage’s “Blood Machine” along with Hugh Chisholm poem in 1943 magazine

6. “Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” – Jesus, the Gospels. It’s a reference to giving to the poor, but when I think of the notion of artmaking as giving, I think it applies here. There’s value in operating in two separate ways concurrently- keeping the meaningful work that I’m doing apart from the outward display of it. But the assumption in the quote above is that a person is using both hands, not just one. I’m trying to get used to this “new normal” I’ve had for a few years by integrating loss into my daily living, using my left hand along with the right, forcing the new normal as I have less function on the right.  There is much to consider in this mini-parable.
6. So if I just stand still so that I’m left standing in the end, isn’t that all right?
Wait a second… researching this poet further… geez, he was briefly married to Bridget Tichenor, an American born Mexican surrealist painter… whose work I saw at LACMA… whose painting was featured in an article I read in An Xiao’s article in Hyperallergic…. So, I see how he was a part of this scene of painters… and yet notes of his work say merely “war correspondent for NBC news”. Hmm. Graduated from Cambridge, published in the Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker… and then… who knows. I love biography, and connections, and the record of a life left behind.
Anyways, several paintings will be shown Gallery Ehva in Provincetown, MA: June 1st-13th in the show “Good Vibrations.” I will also show work at the 6th Int’l Encaustic Conference Hotel Fair at the Provincetown Inn on Sunday, June 3.

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