My college degree came with a 500,000,000 price tag (or something close to that, it was probably more) and the elusive PAINTER pedigree, coveted by few, glamourized by all.
I loved college. Incubated in creativity, it was the first time I felt that my inclination to explore slow thought in a mindful way had a place to seed, nurse, thrive.
What was I like in college? I have been trying to remember because I went there for a reason.
Angry! Sensitive! Serious! Naive! Precious! (self-absorbed)
Work was at the forefront, any artist will tell you that hands on practice is how you hone your craft.
Discipline became a mantra.
A studio is cute, but without hours logged it's an empty room.
And then there's concept.
What a beautiful thing to have a great idea. But without a ‘why’ how is an idea any different from a passing emotion, from passing gas.
I graduated with that painting pedigree 14 years ago. My class was small BECAUSE IT WAS AN ART SCHOOL, and each graduate had the opportunity to address our courtyard audience. I don't remember anything any one of us said. I remember what I wore.
Isn't that strange, to accomplish/survive a pile of something and remember such insignificant bits? We do it all the time: a wedding boiled down to the leaning cake, a car crash summed in one noise, birth as violence, a first kiss smelling only of a cup of coffee from a coffee shop you never returned to.
I began painting very young, little vignettes of the circus (which I had never been to). I painted my mother and a friend that hurt my feelings. Then I painted things I imagined. Then I painted things I hoped for. Next it was every experience, a narrative to my life.
My work life was big, my discipline thorough, my concept started to slip.
Hours logged, time accounted for. I was doing the work, but where was i going?
Fourteen years passed.
Fourteen years accounts for multiple gallery representations and subsequent showings, and if i toss in the the title of SOLO it just sounds like a big fat sexy success story.
Oh, friends, the politics . . .
Fourteen years includes things like working my ass off as a waitress, smoking my anxiety down to hundreds of ciggy embers, piles of broken friendships, just a lot of no money but a plethora of generic brand greek yogurt, a divorce, so many all-over-the-map lovers, a new marriage, a sick parent, yoga, running, whiskey but then beer, a big fat magical baby, twitter, and at least six personal reckonings.
This list, it fucked up my concept.
College let me care about myself. We should all care about ourselves. But we don’t. Caring about yourself is a selfish concept. The dictionary has no words for it that don’t imply narcissism: self-absorbed, egocentric, conceit. I literally just listed them all right here.
Painting is like this: a pile of plastic materials coupled with insufficient words for any experience. The melding of the two is a chemical and human alchemy resulting in tangible work for the spectrum of pain and joy we live WITHIN but can not find words for.
I have been schooled in painting, I have that pedigree (did i mention that? It was very expensive and super important) I toiled,( and that’s very important). I am very good at what I do. It has taken fourteen years for me to comfortably assert that (as a painter, as a person, AS A WOMAN).
I am not famous, I still have no money, I have an impressive resume, I have a loyal following, I have anxiety, I have huge bodies of work behind me, I have everything an artist needs to successfully have their midlife crisis and I’m so ready for it.
wait. i’m in the midst of it.
I recently changed direction. I enrolled in school and signed up for late nights, night classes, night homework, eventually night shifts once I finish the Nursing program.
I love the work so far. Time continues to be the most precious commodity I own since having that fat and magical baby. Work consumes my schedule and it is playdate, homework, painting, playdate, homework, painting, playdate, test, repeat.
Discipline. fuuuuuuccccck. I used to wake up from nights of playing pool and karaoke only to fry two eggs and walk outside of my house for coffee simply to force the momentum of the day. (i refuse to give readers a measure of time based on years for this.)
2 year olds love eggs. They force your ass to the kitchen for coffee. It’s all morning hell no matter the decade.
That leaves us with concept, my least favorite of the triad. Whats and Hows are the best, so easy; I’m gonna make this thing, with these other things.
I am thirty six years old, young and really paying attention to being alive.
I am thirty six years old, appreciating ibuprofen and doing the math/ health risks to reach 90.
My concept memories were formed in an unkempt university orchard, a bar that didn’t check i.d.s, bus rides that took me all over the city at all hours. I cared about love, imagination, survival.
Painting supported all that, those are free existential concepts.
Concept present is my SPORT UTILITY VEHICLE, carseat properly positioned, all over the city at baby friendly hours.
I care about love, imagination, survival.
Painting does not support that, those are not free capitalist concepts.
I cashed in my painting card to the local community college this spring. My expensive degree and slightly less than 10,000 hours did not translate into transferrable credit. i’m starting from scratch.
That’s okay, I’ve done it before.
School has been a trip. The hours logged are a lot of work and I have to discipline myself to find the hours outside of stay at home parenting.
But the concept, it’s as free and personal as it’s ever been.
Six hundred years from now, when I’ve reached that ridiculous surreal age of forty something, I will have my registered nurse license.
New materials, new audience, but still, love, imagination, survival.