"Look at that!" I said out loud to no one in particular in the midst of a most bittersweet moment alone in the studio. A friend from town had come over during the week to look at my work and we had moved all kinds of things around, picking work up, putting it down. She leafed through a little pile of handmade books I had on a shelf, some of which I'd made over the years, others by fellow artists. As I went to straighten things up the other day, I laid my hand on a crazy looking book, each page covered in beeswax...it was wild with abandon, drawing everywhere, patches of color laid down willy-nilly, and with each page translucent, including both folded covers, I could see through the layers to pages underneath.
I fell in love with that crazy little book I made years ago and it felt just like seeing myself in a home movie, playing and cavorting without a care in the world, the silence of the intervening years a witness to the inch by inch closing down of that person who really knew how to play in the studio. I didn't make that book as a child, but I probably made it at least 6 or 8 years ago, around the time of those last pieces I unearthed. What happened....what got lost?
Of course, I knew the answer and here's what's happened. For decades after I finished school, I worked in the library at the art school I had attended...not knowing at the beginning that I would be there for 25 years. I kept thinking it would be until I figured out what else I wanted to do, but I was able to support myself in a job that fed my artistic spirit, surrounded by a community of artists, as I cataloged art books day after day. It was a long time before I realized that the job was allowing me to do something very important with my own work in the studio...play. We go through art school thinking that what we must want to do is make art and have it in galleries where people will buy it...that this is somehow the ultimate goal, knowing that if you are very fortunate, you can make a living off your work. I realized at some point during my tenure at Ringling College of Art and Design, that making a living from your work meant that you were under a certain pressure from the marketplace. I was free from that and although I showed my work in countless juried exhibitions over the years, there was never any pressure to do anything that didn't come naturally to me. Even that, understanding what comes naturally to you, takes a very long time to develop.
I don't work at that little dream job any longer...I left it when we moved to South Dakota. I made some trade-offs. I traded the security of a job that supported me financially and artistically, for all the time in the world to be in the studio....but I am subject now entirely to the marketplace in order to have any kind of income. For many years I said that I would keep making art, whether anyone ever saw it or not...that was kind of a test for me, whether you really had it in you....would you continue to make the work even if you didn't have the accolades, the encouragement and the pats on the back. I know that I will continue to make art, but it's different now...in some ways, my art making experience is much, much richer, because of the online relationships I've developed and that continue to grow. On the other hand, the lesson I must continue to work on....is letting myself play...because that's the only way I can make the work that is unique to me. And the next lesson is for me to trust the universe that the work will sell....I am very much involved in the marketplace and my life now is all about that balance.
I love random marks, surprise, layering, surface, chaos and a fair amount of disorder when making the work...I love it when things are not what they seem, because that's the lesson of life....look closely, there is always more and it's not always what you think. Cheers!!!
This little book is called Transluscent Days (named this very day!) and will appear in my shop in the next day or two.