Artist & Writer, San Francisco Bay Area

Reasons: This is Why I Chose a Studio MFA

This is a different kind of post. I don’t have the energy to craft this into something more. I have new limitations (and new advantages). My life the last few years has been full of all sorts of unexpected twists and turns, not the least of which was that brain injury thing in April. I embrace the passionate pursuits of life (faith, hope, love, family, friends, art) with all the strength I can muster; that strength waxes and wanes. I keep up with life. I keep learning new things. I keep writing. I keep making art. And to that end, I keep my graduate studies going, my #exMFA plan. It’s the structure I can rely on, it’s the path to goals I have and the goals that I’m still figuring out.

How could I do this if I was paying for a degree, how could I manage the pressure that comes with knowing that the more I get back to life, the harder it is for my brain to articulate complex information? That kind of thinking isn’t happening on the surface of my brain and it’s not easily retrievable. I can’t easily process and express it the way I want to.  If I was in a traditional MFA program, knowing that I’d have to keep up with a pre-determined schedule, and that I’d have to do it all despite my deficits, that would really stress me out.

untitled painting, 20″ x 16″
finished June 19, 2015

I started to doubt myself in this Studio MFA thing ever since I got more active with life. Back when I had zero life responsibilties, when I rested/rehabilitated all day, I had enough surplus energy to read, learn, and write as I pleased. Now that I’ve resumed my former home-life jobs, and also now that my children are home for the summer, I’m not only mentally fatigued, I’m physically drained. I have to nap. Take breaks. If I don’t, I want to cry, that’s how worn out I get. OK, truthfully, I cry more easily than I did before, about anything, so don’t feel too sorry for me :). There have been lots of plus sides to this thing, anyway. For one, I care a whole lot less what people think about me than I used to. Extreme sensitivities and empathetic skills aren’t always all they’re cracked up to be! The result is that I can enjoy being myself so much more. I’ve always valued and continue to value being a considerate sympathatic person, but I’m super glad I’m making more room for my voice to join the conversations I have. (Sounds weird but it’s true?) There are a whole host of other fun changes in my brain, too, more than I’ll get into here. Woot!

So the thing is, despite lots of slow downs, this Studio MFA plan, aka my graduate studies, aka my plan to take my studio practice up a notch– it’s still happening! I haven’t read my materials as quickly as I was at first, nor have I written/posted as many notes. (I spent a month or so on working through certain concepts; I keep the notes that are specific to the classes & subjects here). But the last few weeks, I’ve taken the subjects I’ve considered and applied it to my visual work. It’s happening slower than I want it to, but it’s still happening. This is the art life. This is what it looks like to keep an art practice going, come hell or high water. This can’t be taught, it has to be lived.

ArtLifeNow I’m looking at the gestures that stick with me, the ones that make up my drawings and paintings, and I’m asking myself, what am I looking at? As an artist, what is it that I’ve been seeing that is making me paint or draw these particular images? I want my work to resonate with the non-art educated, I want to find the shapes and lines that are a part of a visual language that any human would know (whether or not they know that they know.) I’ve learned that I see things in a particular way, and I’m sharing what I see in these particular ways. I have more answers for my work than I had before. I’m not going into those details here (they are concepts half articulated by imagery and half by worded language anyway) so it’s not something I can elaborate on now. But it’s happening. My studio practice might move at a glacial place, but glaciers are pretty big, so big that they can change whole landscapes, so big that there’s more of them than is visible. So you know what? Maybe I’m okay with this glacial pace. Maybe that’s what I’ve wanted all along.


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