All original images and text are copyright 2008-2018 Liz Sweibel


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Acknowledgment

While my previous words are entirely and deeply accurate, and not just lately but every day, I didn't acknowledge (in true form) that in the midst of my immersion in Glenwood and lemons I did prepare a grant application for the New York Foundation of the Arts with nine videos that I'm quite happy with. And I'm eager to continue working, with video and other mediums, and appreciative of the deep need that keeps me working in some form (even when it feels like I'm not) no matter what.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Solace

Immersed as I am in the care of Glenwood the miracle kitten, I'm finding that solace - creative and personal - comes in the teensiest of gestures and observations. That entirely matches my work; I want to capture the pure, visceral joy of placing a lemon in a purple bowl on my countertop; the act and the visual result are utterly satisfying. The spirit of Alison Knowles's Make a Salad keeps occurring to me; the urge to exalt the most mundane of creative activities into Everything is persistent. Those little acts - and their accumulation - are all we have.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Mind-less

I've been pretty mind-less since June 8, when Riley's heart condition was diagnosed. From the awfulness of her last month to my sadness since her death, to the external focus of my day job, and now to the drama of little Glenwood, my emotional state has been so reactive to outside events that what's going on inside me is remote. I'm so distracted I don't even know where I am. (I tried a new subway route to work today and ended up back in Brooklyn before realizing I got on the right train in the wrong direction.) And when I do have the opportunity to sit with myself, I've been furthering the disconnect rather than risk being with myself. Not good.

I've continued to make work, but it's like talking out of the side of my mouth. That's not a comment on what I've made, but about my experience making it. It's like when someone asks what I do and I describe my jobs then say, Oh, and I'm an artist. I treat myself like an afterthought or, worse, habitually deaden myself in the very act of trying to enliven myself (ironically).

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Stuck?

A friend visited some months ago and, hearing my anguish at finding a way to work in this new-ish life, said, "It's all here," referencing the place I inhabit as home and studio. Her observation was good, as it's slowly allowed me to see the potential in the minute but precise actions that ground me, that keep me from stalling out or sinking, that are a making-order-of that sets the foundation. Metaphorically, the dishes have to be washed before I work in the studio, but that brings the dish-washing and the studio into a shared space of activity.

I'm contributing to an on-line journal that'll be published in early 2010, my first invitation to show video. Wonderful timing.

The Little Videos on my Web site are like moving photos. The new photos in the Play area suggest movement as much as the videos suggest stillness. And they're not photos of anything that persists; the image on the computer is their sole existence.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Riley, November 1, 1999-July 10, 2009














Her strangely squared-off and graceful paws. The little flash of white fur at the end of her tail. Her stripes, like pajamas. The orange in her. Her tough little shoulders. Her bow legs. Her with-me-like-a-puppy-ness. Her night-time wails, carrying her little dog-doll around by the neck.

How she ran to sit between the curtain and liner while I showered. How dripping water mesmerized her. How she'd abandon breakfast and beat me to my meditation spot knowing she'd get a good rub. How she'd roll onto her back on the keyboard when she was starved for attention.

She stands in for me in my profile image, and I can't bear to change it. Rest in peace, Riley.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Michael Ashkin at The Sculpture Center


Untitled (where each new sunrise promises only the continuation of yesterday).
Untitled (where the wind carries from afar all but that for which one has yearned).
Untitled (where transcendence appears as a drone sent from afar by men with thick torsos).
Untitled (where too much significance is attached to the debris of a single airplane).
Untitled (where angry men search through the wreckage of a plane for the pieces of a pilot).
Untitled (where one is hunted in direct proportion to one's remoteness).
Untitled (where the value of life contracts as the value of territory expands).
Untitled (where one still walks tall, but feels with each step the onset of a stagger).
Untitled (where one scans the horizon with eyes that can no longer focus in the distance).
Untitled (where one waves one's stick toward the idea of an object).
Untitled (where one only sees one's object when its presence blocks all view of the horizon).
Untitled (where one tires of the same sentence expressed in its endless variations).
Untitled (where one exhausts oneself with the same idea said a thousand different ways).
Untitled (where one aims words at the sky only to immediately kick through their debris).
Untitled (where the horizon feels like walls that are slowly collapsing toward one).
Untitled (where the daily repetition of one's motions defeats even the idea of escape).
Untitled (where one believes in a silence that one cannot help but articulate).
Untitled (where one lives for the poetry for which there is no longer a vocabulary).
Untitled (where one tries to imagine the last words ever said).
Untitled (where truth reveals itself in its seeming disfigurement).
Untitled (where hiding places are many, escape only one).

2009
Recycled corrugated cardboard
76' x 6.5' x 3"

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sorting

All is cliche; I'm bored, frustrated, and disappointed - three streams of anger! No wonder all I want to do is sleep, and most of what I do when awake is berate myself.

This midlife crisis (the overarching cliche) has started its sixth year. If I have to live this thing that us aware types can be arrogant enough to think we'll sidestep, can it at least wrap up?  Can I at least bounce back to tolerable levels of dissatisfaction, despair, and self-criticism?

The studio is demoralizing.  No idea or experiment - no thought - has more than fleeting possibility. Yes, this is the "normal" cycle of the studio:  periods that feel excruciatingly nonproductive that are often periods of gestation that end with an outpouring of new work and gratitude, and leave behind a film of amnesia.

Still, this feels like a double hit - probably because of a seeping awareness that I have less time and fewer chances or choices to improve things.  It sounds morbid, particularly to friends in their 20s and 30s, and it sounded morbid to me then.  Now it's real.  My father and mother died at about my age, so the possibility that life can end well before we're done with it is not abstract.

I've been sorting through family stuff - photos, letters, childhood drawings and essays, report cards, baby clothes, passports, newspaper clippings, receipts, worthless stock certificates, recipes.  It's impossible to let go of even scraps of paper with cryptic notes when they're a way to meet my parents.  The timing is no accident, of course.  I can construe that poetically, or more ominously.  I always knew my 50s would be complicated.  I read an interview with an Irish novelist whose father died at the novelist's (middle) age, and he said he felt a kind of recognition.

Should I be making practical changes?  Or is this internal state only loosely related to my day-to-day?  Much of my frustration is wanting to do something to kickstart myself - as if one right action would unlock me - when possibly the only thing to do is not do and wait, actively.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Change Default

My default thinking is about my jobs:  constructing a final exam for my art class in my head, making a mental note to talk with my boss about staffing.  While I'm fortunate to have jobs I largely enjoy, I need to be in my work when I'm not in the studio ... to have the studio be my default.  Getting traction feels nearly impossible.  I have to start up again every damn weekend.  I'm rarely building, and the pressure of time works against random experiments and having more than one thing going on, which is how I work best.

What to do?  I'm not writing just to bemoan or observe, but to strategize.

I've been thinking of taking my own photos for the collages for awhile.  My cell phone camera is too limited for anything more serious than Flickr.  I have a good, though bulky, studio camera.  And my sculpture?  There's no motivation to make it in the studio space I have without a site to install it.  The videos on my Web site are the form it's taking.  I want to keep that going.

I need to commit to (1) carrying the camera anyway; (2) finding the discipline and reserves to work one or two nights during the week; and (3) calming the hell down about being 52 and still struggling with identity and fearing the struggle won't be productive and I'll be writing the same blog five years from now.

OK then.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Of Postcards and Birds

I wait all week for time in my studio, and this weekend is a good stretch.  As it's turning out, a good stretch to be discomforted at not knowing what to do, at seeing every move as forced and superficial, at fearing there won't be any potency and it'll be Monday again.  The collages feel stale (again).  I signed up for a postcard show to nudge myself into working bigger.  Yet a 4 x 6" field offers no entry point, whether untouched paper or a piece of architectural drawing.  It's anonymous, like there's too much space for a small gesture to have an impact, yet a larger one is false and vacuous.  It's like going to a big new city and having no idea what to do, or even what there is to do.

I've considered an accumulation of small gestures and feel ready to move back to work; I'm just without a vocabulary - though birds now come to mind, given last week's events.  And my adoration of the Brooklyn parrots that live near me.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Tiny Catharsis

Perhaps it was inevitable I'd be tested. Walking on W. 55th St. a week ago with a friend, a baby bird had fallen onto the sidewalk. Its wing was wrong and its beak was hurt, but it was a chipper little thing. We kept it from scooting into traffic by using our feet as barriers; it cuddled against them. I made a circle around it with my scarf, and it settled down. I started to cry. There was no one to help and my friend had to go, so we gently lifted it into a bag and the bird and I rode the Q train home. I watched it and wept into the bag, knowing it wasn't going to live and that the quality of its remaining time was up to me.

My car was the safest place for the night, quiet and away from my cats. I settled it in its scarf-bed, brought water, and dragged myself home. It felt awful to wish for a death, and to know anything was so alone. But I was relieved when, the next morning, I found the bird had died during the night. Sobbing, I packed it up, drove to Prospect Park, and made a little resting place in the reeds.

This feels like a miniature adjustment to my history and sense of self. Taking on this helpless little life regardless of the emotional and practical challenge felt like a turning-to. I didn't stop crying (not for days), but I stopped looking for someone to save either of us or feeling like it was more than I could take. And since then I've felt a little stronger, a little more able to manage a strike to the core. The panic that I'll witness something too awful for words will probably always haunt me, but maybe I found a little more faith that I can exceed myself.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

What's the Question?

I've spent hours in the studio struggling with the collages. Nothing makes any sense, though the cutting-out-of-things with my Exacto is soothing and satisfying. (The tip, however, breaks in 3.2 seconds. My self-healing pad heals itself, but at the blade's expense. How's that for a human metaphor?) The collages come in series and have persistently exhausted themselves and resurfaced, the same but different. The architectural/domestic subject matter continues, as does the implied but absent figure; the emphasis shifts (interior/exterior, decor/space, empty/waiting).

The nature of each transition becomes visible in retrospect, with just a vague awareness during the shift. I don't look for definition but watch the question re-form. And in that, the process clarifies and another series comes. The less cerebral my activity the more convincing the outcome. The work must be transitioning now, as my frustration has the quality of a forced silence, a distance from myself that is the being-lost before a new question can form.

The gesture of collage is to make sense of disparate pieces; the decisions within that speak to the particular experience of fragmentation. Mine has included trying to reconcile my interior life with the performance I give in the world to survive (not just monetarily, but as another part of my character) ... my enjoyment of solitariness with the absence of family ... my experience of the physical and aesthetic space of New York City with my love of open landscape, of sailing, of gardening.

I've wondered whether the collages might be trying to get at the tiny surprises of city life that thrill me (an architectural detail, a kindness from a stranger, a glimpse of green or a flower). But the tension there is easy, superficial. The real counterpoint is my pervasive dread of witnessing the uncared-for (horses pulling carriages up Eighth Avenue, the dirty white cat drinking out of a puddle in the gutter of a busy street, parents crushing children with their words). I can't dwell there; it's too annihilating for me to function.

These words signal a defense, and another layer of dread. They may or may not point to where these collages head, but reveal the rawest place I know in myself: horror for those who are betrayed by the only people they have to protect them. What could leave a living being more alone, vulnerable, and trapped in pain?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Shaq O'Neal

I had a good solid six hours in the studio today. It feels meaningless for the first two or so hours, like every choice I might make is guided more by my good eye than any rigorous question. My impulse is to stop work since I feel like a lightweight, but this is how it works. I have to stay, or act like a lightweight and start my week at a deficit. If one gesture resonates, I'm through - and if not, at least I stayed. I get so little time to work, with a week between, and that loss of momentum.

I got through, with extra turbulence because what was fueling the collages now feels known. To keep with that would be to act like a lightweight without leaving - that awful gray mushy space of biding time.

I've been told that the things in the periphery of my studio can be more interesting than where I'm focused. In grad school, in an act of unbridled frustration, I dumped out my trash and installed it. William Pope L. paid a studio visit and, after looking at my work, moved to my garbage. "You know who Shaq O'Neal is?" "Sure, why?" "Because he's not the greatest natural player but he's learned to play to his strengths, and that's made him great." Got it.

One collage was different, and I allowed its rhythm to infiltrate the rest. It's a tiny architectural landscape, all exterior.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Attitude Adjustment

I've felt weird about my last post for a couple of weeks - so whiny! - and was tempted to delete it. But I won't allow myself, as it seems dishonest to edit my less shining moments out of this history. Plus, I finally got so sick of myself wallowing in my petty complaints that I decided to push out and get on with things. I've felt better ever since.

My emotional make-up and history have made depression the default position. Many days have to start with me reminding myself, point by point, that things are pretty good (especially considering the horrors this economy is wreaking on less fortunate people). I'm not a negative person, but can get stuck in a down position until I do a reality check.

Positive developments: It is officially a habit to make few if any plans over the weekend so I can work in my studio. The collages have become consuming. They pick up where the Interior series left off: tiny and architectural, but different. Some are less interior; the spaces are more ambiguous and suggestive than realized. The structure is edited to the minimum then layered over a rendering or floor plan. Others are tinier than ever, with dense layers and juxtapositions of walls and windows. I work wherever my attention goes for as long as its held. These collages take a long time, and many visits.

I'm stopping myself when I feel the worry about all that I'm not doing moving in: sending out packages, scanning, making videos, updating my Web site, adding to flickr. It is a poison in my system to feel I'm never doing enough or doing enough right, and I have to be vigilant. Working is working, and I'm working.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Is This It?

Today marks one year since I moved into my home. I promised myself I wouldn't let this milestone pass without painting the inside of the last closet, which I did. I only wish that the many other promises I make to myself - or wishes I hold for myself - were getting the same attention.

I start each day fresh, with hopes and intentions to end it with a sense of self, accomplishment, optimism. Yet, one after the other, days end in frustration, sadness, disappointment. It's unlike me. I've been tenacious - relentless, even - in trying to make things better, and have made things much better over many years. Now I feel like I'm giving up and can't stop the slide. Is this what midlife looks like? Do I want too much and lack gratitude for what I have? Do I need to return to the basics to reconnect with my own drive? Yes. Maybe. Yes.

So what are these basics? One is meditation. I'm sitting again; it's hard. I can't seem to land in the present even during practice, let alone the rest of my time. Another is exercise. With spring coming that becomes more possible. The third is the studio. I'm more engaged, and want it active whatever I'm doing. As I write, I see the seeds are here. I also know they've been here for awhile (a year?), but haven't yet taken root.

What's in the way? What's on the other side of what's in the way that is so frightening?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Flags?

At last, a substantial and productive studio day. Nothing is more satisfying and unsettling - both, inseparably both, as that's the only way for it to leave the studio with me as I go into the week.

I worked on new collages, "after" the 2007 Interior series in that they're architectural and tiny, but they're in another key. A new video is on my site too. It's good not to be precious with these "kinetic photographs" but to make, edit, and launch 'em. Like flags. Flags?

Saturday, February 28, 2009

"What Remains"

I went to the Met today. I can't take credit for the impetus, only that I'd scheduled it as a field trip with my students. Thank God. It was pretty great. Not only my casual conversations with them, but also the wandering in between. I saw the Bonnard show, Late Interiors, which was lovely. Some of the work seems to presage Diebenkorn's Ocean Park paintings.

Before and after Bonnard I moved through the museum without purpose or intention. I wound up in this cave-like, bricked, dimly lit area with steles, jewelry, and tapestry fragments from 200 to 400 AD. One woven fragment was mesmerizing. There was something architectural about it, and the parts that were eroded away only made what was left more exquisite. It was hard to leave.

I've been thinking about collage. I need to use my hands. The woven fragment is a push. It gave the title to this post, which is from Sally Mann, who I've been looking at for my students.

I launched two videos on my Web site today. The video seems like the form my sculpture is taking. Tomorrow is a studio day. Yay.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Missing

It's been three weeks since I wrote, not for lack of inclination but time. For having to set priorities so that many things I want to do don't get done and many ways I'd like to feel don't get felt. Like embodied. Like I'm doing my work. Like I'm in it.

I seem only to disappoint myself, and it's exhausting. My expectations are probably too high, yet I've had what I'm missing and I want it back.

What I make is changing to accommodate what is. I know that's positive, yet barely experience it. I made two short videos - my first. They are what I want them to be. They'll be on my Web site soon, as immediate a showing as could be. Yet I don't feel the relief of having made new work, work that's clear and exciting. I can't blame my clumsiness with the technology for this long, long distance from myself.

People tell me I'm disciplined; I don't much agree. If I was as disciplined as I seem, I'd dig out. I returned to meditation a couple of days ago after not sitting for two or three weeks, and that's good - that's the discipline that's proven best at aligning my actions with my hopes for myself.

Monday, January 26, 2009

But Still

The Internet is saving me as an artist in some ways; I see that. What I'm pining for is a process that's tactile, immediate, repetitive, portable, compelling - one I take seriously. Taking cell-phone photos is an outlet, but it's not my work; it's just something I do ... the visual equivalent to this blog. Satisfying, valuable, and maybe even necessary, but still tiptoeing around the edge.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

In Actuality

I wrote about my surprise at seeing the figure come into my recent work, and now a week later see the obvious: it hasn't. My work remains as it's been, about absence. All that's changed (not to diminish it but put it in perspective) is that the trace or shadow or ghost is representational.

Actually, I feel like I don't know how to work any more. It takes a million hours to earn a living (and I'm fortunate enough to like what I do), and my studio is now a giant table in my living room. What does it mean to be an artist, when I have maybe half a day a week to work at it? I know I'm an artist no matter what I'm doing, but it's hard to stay connected to that. And if I have so little time to work, do I slice that into smaller pieces to market it? Galleries are less appealing as a stage or gauge of success; they seem so separate from the life I live and the things I care about.

All this has turned me toward the Internet. As friends can attest, I long rejected a Web site, generally with insights like "My work looks like shit on a screen." And there's truth in that! It confuses the scale, for one thing. My pieces are often larger on the screen than they are in actuality; viewers who assume the opposite and don't look at the dimensions lose something essential. The materiality is also essential to the slow engagement I'm after. These intentions are at odds with the scale changes, speed, texture-lessness, and anonymity of the Internet.

Still.

I choose the work to show and its presentation. I say what I want to say or keep quiet. And the making and the marketing can overlap (and even sometimes merge). It's like there's an efficiency at work that I never foresaw - and that wasn't a priority when I had time to stretch 3,000 twelve-inch lengths of wire and dip the tip of each in hot wax six to eight times (Threshold). Large-scale installations also feel out of reach, but that's not just a function of time, space, and the limitations of the Internet but one of opportunity, which brings me right back to marketing.

So.

While some things are now less possible, others are more possible. Just like anything else, it's an exchange, and this one may be the only way it's still possible for me to work at all. Am I still me?

Monday, January 19, 2009

P.S.


This morning I saw that the subtitle of the Mark Morris book is A Celebration. Its photographs are vividly expressive: all color, light, and motion. Yet the dancers I'm choosing aren't the ones celebrating; they are still, turned inward, contemplative, even when celebration is going on all around them. I make them into shadows, without color. They're also alone; I can only tolerate multiple figures in an image when they are replicas (many of one) or when two are alone together (together but not together).

I've been watching Art:21 in preparation to teach Contemporary Art. I want my students to hear different artists' voices, and didn't foresee how good it would be for me to hear them. Fred Wilson saying he's not that interested in making anything but in creating relationships between existing things, Do-Ho Suh's longing for home, Layla Ali's highly organized studio practice and high anxiety about painting. Most of the artists reference their early years' influence on what they've become, without slipping into self-pity or -importance. So perhaps my self-consciousness about feeling like I bring everything back to me-me-me isn't the issue; we're all doing that - or using that - in some way. The issue is whether the work exceeds our personal experience, whether we (I-I-I) can use the particular to tap the universal.

That said, my choice of figures and their placement in demolished or empty homes holds something essential about my relationship to the world, a relationship that's mine but hardly unique.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Ghosts

A few months ago a new process emerged: making silhouettes of dancers from photographs, using graphite on vellum or trace. I've long collected photos of dancers with multiple figures in the same stance or with a powerful, nonspecific emotional charge. I have Mark Morris' l'allegro, il penseroso ed il moderato, which has spectacularly beautiful, forceful photographs. It's unusual, but every time I open the book I'm bowled over and think, "I've got to do something with my reaction to this."

Starting to draw the figure surprised me; its absence is defining in my work. In my midtwenties I started taking dance class, and felt I'd found the thing that was missing for me, the thing I should always have been doing. While it gave me some identity, I was late coming to it and knew it would remain a passionate hobby. In time I stopped, but I still wish for it.

The type of architectural photos I used in the Interiors collages of 2007 are still in my studio and still draw me in, though differently. I've begun to layer the dancers into these spaces.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Measuring My Own Grave

When I remembered that the title of the Marlene Dumas exhibit at MoMA is "Measuring Your Own Grave" (I wish I had the funds for the catalog!), I realized that my posts "Waiting (for Meaning)" and "Late Bloomer" are of-a-thought. I considered titling this post "Well, Duh," but am letting myself off the hook for slow dot-connecting, or a minor episode of late blooming.

Today a US Airways plane made an emergency landing in the Hudson River, less than a mile west of where I work. Everyone is OK except the birds that caused it. Watching the plane sink (to its grave) made me want to crawl out of my skin, even before imagining the passengers' experience of the descent and the water coming in. Every new image of the submerged plane is a shock, makes me nauseous. My fingernails are gone.

(I've spent a lot of time on the water but don't much care to be in it; sinking holds a special terror. My father, a superb boatsman, did have the habit of shouting "We're dead!" whenever we got into some real trouble, and once announced to me, half-asleep, "We're sinking!" over a small leak in the stuffing box and to please hold the flashlight.)

Isn't it ironic, and so sad, that some deeply unfortunate birds can take down an airliner and put hundreds of lives at risk?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

"Waiting (for Meaning)"

I saw the Marlene Dumas exhibit at MoMA, which includes the painting this post is titled after. The painting wasn't a favorite, but its title - and much of her work - resonated, maybe even more so because of my own pervasive angst and frustration. Her figures' eyes are wrenching. The emotion they hold, or don't, is potent, discomforting, tragic. Unsituated, her figures can be anywhere and everywhere, or nowhere. Her use of scale particularizes each figure's relationship with me. It is great work.

And it poked at something in me that's been a source of my work, one I now see has receded or been blanketed (resolution? exhaustion? refusal?). In an earlier post I wrote of my work separating from my autobiography. I think Dumas pushes me back into something autobiographical that's been cleansed from recent work - not a return to a historical narrative or a dredging-up, but the meaning I make and emotion of it in my present. Where the "nothing" pieces of 2007-2008 are calls to attention, perhaps the next question is, Attention to what?

A huge sadness for the world and for people - for our irresponsibility, cruelty, and failure to care - has been flooding me; no wonder Dumas went right under my skin. It seems time to allow that into what I make, which is to live with and in it. Life gets harder but more authentic when the blanket is lifted and despair stays close to the surface. To pull it back over me now would be cowardly.

Monday, January 5, 2009

"A State of Serious Mortification"

The phrase that titles this post perfectly describes my relationship to this blog, and it was a perverse relief to know I'm not alone. The words are Leah Hager Cohen's about starting her blog, Love as a Found Object. I came across them in the NY Times Book Review, where Cohen reviewed The Mercy Papers, a memoir by Robin Romm.

I love the Book Review. I'm not looking for something to read; the Review is the reading. Occasionally I'll tear out a review that makes me curious about the book and file it, but I don't remember I have the file when I'm looking for a book to read. And this never changes. I add to the file about once a year and never think of turning to it for a book - or tossing it.

Essays are like short stories or poems for me; the limitation of length forces them to be efficient. What isn't said can be as important as what is said, and a short work can spark as rich a conversation as a longer piece. I see I'm describing what I aim for with my artwork. I both like that - the consistency - and feel that state of mortification. Again it comes back to me-me-me; I'd like to believe I can exceed myself. At times I've felt like I'm onto something brand new in the studio, then come to see that the concerns are the same. I just come at them differently. That too is both a comfort (like proof of authenticity) and a source of disappointment (I "just" ...).

I don't think our buttons, issues, and vulnerabilities change. We are who we are. Yeah, I can get better at knowing what's sensitive for me. And that helps me anticipate unwanted old reactions (or see that I'm having them) and change course (if it's a really good day), but the sensitivity remains.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Late Bloomer

Within the last couple of years, I've begun to measure major decisions against my own lifespan. The question that's surfaced most is whether to get a doctorate to better my job prospects, but it's just one example. What I hear myself say is, "If I were 30 or even 40 I'd probably do it, but now?" I know that any decision I've made based on money has proven bad and that I don't even know of a program interdiscplinary enough to get my interest, but that's not what I'm trying to get at here. It's about thinking about myself, "It's too late for that" (whatever "that" is).

I've always been a late bloomer. I lost my way during adolescence, and my parents (who were big on achievement but not great at guidance) died before I was 30 and had found my way back. I started my BFA at 36. My emotional development largely ran in parallel, as it would, except that my family dynamic forced me to grow up too fast in certain ways. In the end, I had to reach back (dig up my identity as a child and artist) to grow the rest of me up.

And now I'm so grown up I'm too old for a major endeavor like (but not) a doctorate? Ha. That's way oversimplified, but it's a mode of thinking to question. It could be a tricky expression of fear and get in the way of doing things I want to do but find intimidating. With art school, I never experienced making a decision, only discovering the obvious next step. Same with moving back to New York. Am I still willing to let myself discover an obvious next step?

Saturday, January 3, 2009

In My Own Way

When it came time for the training wheels to come off my bicycle, my father apparently thought he'd be doing the standard running-down-the-street-beside-me scene. I wanted nothing to do with that and walked my bike, sans training wheels, to the neighbors' concrete driveway. As my parents told it, I was gone for hours. I came home banged up and bleeding, but able to ride a two-wheeler.

I sent my Web site into the world today, perhaps the last living artist to do so. It's a big moment, preceded by years of doubt and resistance, mostly because my work is so slight and so about slow experience in quiet space that I feared it would lose everything on a screen. I think I've accepted that it's different, but that isn't the same as without. I think the work can gain enough on the Web to balance and perhaps even round out whatever of it doesn't come through. Let's hope.