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


Friday, July 25, 2014

It dawns on me that I've not felt fully settled in NYC since returning in 2004.  No wonder I look around my apartment and see nests:  found nests, made nests, suggestions of nests.

The loft was always a transient space; the trauma of that mass eviction (2007) still affects me.  Judy and her third floor in NJ were the net that caught me and helped me keep sanity, momentum, and Timmy and Riley as I sought my next roost.  I took a studio in South Slope while living there.

I decided right after the eviction that if there was any way for me to buy an apartment, then I would; I did, in 2008.  I gave the South Slope space up after a few months and moved the studio home.  In 2012 I became full-time faculty and rented a Gowanus studio.  Home and job stabilized!

Wednesday I moved the studio back home.  Home destabilized!  Here's a newspaper clipping I keep taped to my monitor:

 ... the one thing that doesn't dim with age is the chance to change people's lives for the better, even our own.

I have some ideas for new work trajectories and am carefully trying to implement them.  Maybe too carefully.  I'm trying to guide myself to avoid known traps, but being too cautious is as self-defeating as being too careless.  What rules do I need and what rules do I need to reject?  And how do I follow the rules that I need, seeing as my natural path is to make them then ignore them?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Today was my first full day of studio work in months.  And it’s new work.

An artist posted a query on Facebook about facing the blank canvas, inviting others’ thoughts.  Reading responses (and not being a painter), I felt a bit alone in my battle to even get myself to the studio.  I don’t mean the practical battle of time but the amorphous, tricky battle of me.  I want to go, I need to go, I don’t go.  Among the fears is something like the blank canvas:  that I won’t know what to do, that anything I do will be awful, that the psychic fallout of that is more than I feel I can bear.  (If I’m in the midst of a way-of-working this is not as substantial an issue; it’s the in-between times.)

I’ve developed strategies to sabotage my self-sabotage, one being to get to the studio very early in the day, before I’ve started any of the negotiating that I always seem to lose (win?).  Another is to set no expectations other than to be there and open.  A third is to allow myself to leave when I am ready, no matter how short a time.  These work.

The new efforts follow on the Japan drawings in globalizing my personal worries.  I am pleased about that.

As I worked today I was also reminded of my compulsion to avoid waste.  This isn’t new but seems to be growing more pressing.  Discarding something because it has become useless to me feels cruel … a rejection, a refusal to allow for its potential.  (A quote from my mother:  “Fuck potential.”  But she was referencing people who “have potential” yet do nothing [ever].  We don’t get points for that.  She was right.)  And/or:   fear that whatever I let go of I will soon need, then have to mourn not having it any more.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Written on the return flight Monday, June 30 (and toyed with ever since):

I’m at 35,000 feet as I write, mercifully that height and about three hours away from closing my responsibility for the eight students still with me.  One was dismissed, two left early to attend to family matters, and one is continuing in Europe.  I love Paris; I dislike the role of trip leader.  

I expect the students have mixed feelings about me, and I have some about myself.  After 100,000 requests (from the valid to the ridiculous to the juvenile) and judgment calls over 19 days, I know I did my best to be fair, patient, instructive, and fun.  That few of the students would see my effort as good enough (I have to assume) is a tough pill given how hard I worked on their behalf – whether they liked the form that work took or not.

But it’s not just me.  I’ve not been singled out.  It is most of these students' view of the world and what it is supposed to do for them.  The limits of my ability or willingness are received as an inconvenience rather than as a meaningful boundary.  They are always right in their own minds, and unmoveable in that there is no other possibility than their rightness.

And then, home for 24-plus hours:

What am I to take away from all this?  That I adore Paris – ADORE it – is not the hard thing to come to.  It is the obvious thing, the thing that rescued the experience.  What else?

And now another day-plus beyond that (and more consistently alert):

I am going through baguette withdrawal.