Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Summer Hiatus

Thank you for stopping by! The blog is currently on hiatus for summer vacation. I'll be back with promised posts mid-to-late August. Until then, peruse and enjoy some older posts. As always, comments are welcomed!

Wishing you a peace-filled summer!


Friday, July 17, 2015

Hard Life Lessons from (or for?) an Elder Artist, pt. 2

***In order to protect the privacy of V the artist, no photos will be used in this series of blog posts***

In Hard Life Lessons from (or for?) an Elder Artist, pt.1, I introduced my readers to V the artist and her difficult situation.

It hasn't changed. The more I speak with V, the more I question the motives she uses in order to, in the catch phrase of our era, achieve her dream. Recently, she told me the story of receiving a phone call from a mega-celebrity after tracking down his mother in a California nursing home. He was polite, but not amused at this invasion of privacy and also not interested in taking ownership of V's artwork, which had been her primary focus...finding a celebrity who would take ownership of she and her late husband's life's work, create an exhibition space/gallery for it, and also fund the publication of a memoir book and possible movie/documentary about their lives.

Dispersing the work is not an option, nor is selling it. V wants her moment in the spotlight, the accolades she feels she deserves for spending a lifetime in front of a canvas, brush in hand. She's completely unwilling to yield here. I was initially so concerned about her quality of life and how to help her that I didn't see the truth behind the reason she contacted me.

She didn't want friendship, companionship, or someone to help her sort out things and find a better living situation. She wanted someone to help her track down private addresses of the rich and famous in hopes that she could achieve fame and wealth by grabbing onto their coattails. If they took an interest in the art, in other words, they would promote it, and her. And this was not a new idea. V and her late husband had been doing this for years; she has celebrity addresses going back at least a decade. 

As much as I want to help V, I can't get on board with this particular plan. Most artists I know accomplish what they work for by working for it - showing art at every opportunity, promoting themselves, doing whatever it takes to get their work visible to others, usually all while raising families and/or working part-time/full-time jobs. They are certainly not trying to skip all of the above steps and achieve greatness through a celebrity's name. And let's not forget the 5-figure price tags that clearly show V is not interested in common folk having her pieces; only the wealthy could afford these kind of prices for art, which has resulted in a lifetime of paintings and drawings stored in file cabinets and closets.

I have come to believe that art stored in closets and file cabinets because high price tags aren't being met is somehow wrong. Art is for everyone. Every home should contain pieces of original artwork. Art should be a part of everyday life, not something persons can only see in museums, high-ticket items available for purchase only to a select, elite few. 

In V's world, artists are a small, distinct group, placed high on pedestals, celebrated for their vision and interpretations of the world around us. But I don't live in that world, not anymore. I was headed there at one time, but then I realized it was a fast track to making my art less accessible to the people who really seemed to love it, who would value it in their homes and lives. It would result in my art being stored in file cabinets and closets, which is not what I want.

And so, from years of growing as an artist and a person, and my recent re-connection with V, Art is for Everyone was born. This Facebook page serves to promote the art of myself, and hopefully in time, others, not to make us famous or wealthy but to get our creations out of the studio and into the world. I'm very excited about seeing what happens, and hope you'll follow along!

And stay tuned for updates on V. She has now shifted her focus from celebrities to the top 200 American Art Collectors. I have more hope that this might bear fruit, though she recently told me she would die with all of her paintings before she'd split the collection up. I'm not sure even the most enthusiastic collector wants 50 paintings by the same artists. So we'll see how it goes...

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Ritual, Festival and Rhythm

Last weekend here in America, we celebrated Independence Day. I think it's a fair assumption to say that this is probably our biggest holiday of the year next to Christmas. What does this celebration look like? Fireworks, festivals, time with family and friends, good food, wearing lots of red, white and blue...

Boys and trucks...what is the fascination?

These celebrations tend to be the same across the country, and they don't really change much from year to year. I've attended the same small town festival each July 4th for as long as I can remember. In the past, I might have lauded this as an exceedingly dull way to spend a holiday, citing a need for adventure and questioning doing something again that I've already done once, or multiple times, before.

And as our annual trip to the Isle of Palms approaches, I'm reminded of a commercial I saw recently stating that 85% of Americans, when traveling, go to the same places they've been before. The commercial presented this as a negative, implying 85% of the population lack the gumption to try  someplace new. I'm inclined, however, to disagree with that logic.

I believe it's the ritual of attending a place that draws us back time and time again. For my son and I, our trip to IOP each August marks the end of our summer. It's a sacred, special time, and because we've visited there so often, has now become our home-away-from-home. Going there is a given; something we know we can rely on. And while we do travel to other places (a trip to Colonial Williamsburg is being tossed about at the moment!) I always budget an August week at IOP into our summer travel plans.

I'm sure I've used this pic on the blog before, but it's so sweet I can't resist using it again.
Ritual is rhythm, and rhythm is important. Whether the ritual is big - like a yearly sojourn to the coast - or small - like rising early for my morning yoga practice followed by coffee on the patio - it becomes a source of strength. In The Spiritual Tasks of the Homemaker, Manfred Schimdt-Brabant states, "Nature determines the rhythmic forming of time sequences. Nature takes the human being through the seasons....for by rhythmically repeating an activity, one creates a kind of platform in the etheric element...and one day will be able to throw one's glance into the spiritual world from this place." In other words, "Rhythm is strength."

Festivals and festival/feast days often mark the seasons, too. Most of the festivals we attend locally are centered around spring, summer, autumn and the Christmas holidays, following the rhythms of nature and faith. But what I find more important are the small rituals we practice daily and/or weekly in the home, such as weekend bread baking...


Jewish Braided Challah Bread, my son's favorite!
...or seasonal rituals, such as summer corn-shucking parties...

Your resident blogger, preparing all that homegrown, organic corn for safekeeping...
Ritual is rhythm, and rhythm is strength. Just as we look to the sky for the first scurry of leaves that signal Autumn's chill will soon be in the air, we can look to our own daily, monthly and yearly rhythms to find the flow and balance within our family life. It sets the tone, and in an unpredictable world, gives a sense of safety and security.While monotony can become dull, rhythm, when understood, becomes an essential part of well-being in the home and daily life.

I'll be finishing up part two of the post Hard Lessons from (or for?) an Elder Artist sometime this week, and following up today's topic with a post titled The Rhythm - and yes, the Joy - of Housekeeping. Now it's time to go start on some Challah bread. Because we are primarily vegan, I can only make this when I've had a delivery of eggs from my friends who keep flocks of happy hens!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Hard Life Lessons from (or for?) an Elder Artist, Part I

***In order to protect the privacy of V the artist, no photos will be used in this series of blog posts***

I am a true believer that people come into our lives for a purpose. Sometimes, it's more like a lesson. Sometimes it's our lesson. Sometimes, it's theirs.

Other times, both.

I met V years ago, when I was still burning the candle at both ends, juggling working full-time with single parenting and the idea that if I kept striving and pushing hard enough, I'd become well-known  for my art.  It was exhausting, and seems so futile now when I reflect upon it, but I was less than five years out of art school and still identifying strongly with the struggling artist ideology so drilled into me there. And my hard work paid off; I enjoyed successes such as selling work, receiving commissions, having solo shows, being a part of group shows, and having my art featured in publications. Once I even sunk a ton of money into a line of greeting cards that were picked up by a prestigious shop in Atlanta.

In the midst of all of this, I met V and her husband. Both artists in their late 60s, they were an eccentric couple who had lived a nomadic, bohemian lifestyle supporting themselves solely by art-making, sacrificing a lot of the now for the hope of fame and fortune in the future. Their paintings were nothing short of masterpieces; they both possessed dynamic technical skill and vision. Visiting their home made me feel like I was in the presence of true artistic genius. I listened to stories of their lives and romanticized it all.

They left the area after a short time, when my son was about four. In the years that followed, I discovered yoga and knitting, almost simultaneously, and my entire perspective on life, art, and creativity shifted. That's a blog for another day. Though I am much, much happier now, occasionally I've had twinges of doubt about the complete skin shedding I did during this time.

Enter V back into my life. 6 months ago, I received a surprising email. She was back in the area and had been for some time. Her husband, sadly, had passed away unexpectedly at the age of 72. V was living alone in a rural area about an hour's drive from me.

Alone, with about 50 paintings and dozens upon dozens of drawings for company.

I wasted no time visiting her, but was disheartened by what I found. Because the couple held out for fame, they had bypassed possible fortune - or at least living wages - many times, refusing to sell art for less than 4 or 5-figure prices or accept commissions. Jobs in creative fields were turned down. When V's husband died, they were channeling most of their energy into being 'discovered'. Both the creating of the work and the attempts to market it took a lot of time, so there was not much left over for things like making friends and building relationships with other artists, often essential networking in the field. V readily admits that the two of them isolated themselves from the rest of the world. Just one another and art - it would have sounded like a dream to the 20-something me.

The reality, however, is far from dreamy. V is struggling now, emotionally and physically. They chose not to have children so they could dedicate themselves entirely to art and often insulated themselves from others in the community. Her small social security income is barely enough to live on, yet she manages somehow.

But the paintings! A lifetime of work, the stunning result of the couple's sacrifice, now line the walls of a ramshackle trailer in a rural Southern town, never seeing the light of day. V currently pours all her efforts into writing to celebrities and asking them to take the collection and host a retrospective show in return for ownership of the art. It's a last attempt to find the fame and fortune they strove so hard for. I asked if having lived the life she wanted, having been able paint as a her sole line of work, and having a half-century joyful marriage to her soul mate and a lifetime of travels and creativity together wasn't something to reflect and be grateful for now, and she shook her head. "If no one takes this art and hosts a show, if no one makes a book or movie about our lives...then it was all a waste. Our sacrifices will be all for nothing."

It breaks my heart to think that it never occurred to either V or her husband that working hard and making sacrifices is no guarantee of fame. She never saw the risk, only the ideal that if one works hard enough, anything is possible. Clearly, they believed. Now the reality of saving this large body of work is weighing heavily on her small, frail shoulders. She wants desperately to leave her current lonely residence, but she can't afford to move and feels she must maintain a space for the paintings. When I talked to her about splitting up the work and donating it among collectors and foundations so that she might be freed of it's burden, she adamantly refused. The dream, this combined vision that she and her husband shared, is just too dear to her to let go of. At least right now.

Recently a friend sent me a fantastic article titled "The Death of the Artist and the Birth of the Creative Entrepreneur." The 20-something me would never have accepted a word of it, but in maturity I can easily see how much of it rings true. When V asked me to find an article for her about the current state of art in America, I shared this one. She stopped reading it halfway through because she didn't agree with it. She couldn't agree with something that negates every choice, every sacrifice, every intention behind every brush stroke that she and her husband made. It reminds her, too painfully perhaps, that there might have been another way. be continued