Tag Archives: Artist

Just show up… 

It’s really hard to focus in here… 

When I know all of this is waiting for me on the other side of the door… 

The beauty of having my woodshop right off the kitchen is that the baby monitor works in there, allowing me to hear when my little ones are waking up. Sometimes the lack of physical distance from all of the things that are easier to do while the kids sleep makes it harder to focus.

Or maybe I’m just looking for a reason to not focus… trying to avoid all those negative ninja gremlins waiting in the rafters of my studio to attack. 

Self doubt sucks. But it’s real and stupid but real and a pain in the ass but also real but also really lame and I wish it wasnt real but it is. 

I’ve been trying to just to show up. Not vanguish all evil or create a piece so stunning the art world can sense it’s existence and seeks it out so they can hold it up as the greatest peice ever made… I just need to show up. 

It’s not easy. I can feel the weight of all of the meanial and safe daily tasks trying to pull me away… the pile of dirty clothes luring me into the laundry room with promises of finally seeing the bottom of the hamper… images of a clutter free kitchen dancing in my head… the promise of all the things I could accomplish in the hour the kids sleep if I don’t go into the shop and waste my time making something that wont be that good anyway… In reality all those safe and menial tasks make me feel like a modern Sisyphus. 

But fear makes me forget that there is no end to the daily chores, that there will always be clothes in the dirty hamper, that no matter how hard I try I can not clear the clutter and mess faster than my two monsters can make it. 

An making art / being vulnerable is scary. Especially in a society that values art as a final product but doesnt always value what can be seen as the foolish and frivolous pursuit of making art. 

So right now, I’m just trying to show up. 

As always, thanks for reading. 

-r.n.a.

You should check out:

Brene Brown, Professor of the Dark Arts and Expert Advice Giver on how to defeat The Gremlins 

– This summary of the story of Sisyphus incase you didnt get the reference I made

– This amazing residency for mom’s if, like me, you are trying to navigate being a mom and an artist. 

Advertisements
Tagged , , , ,

L7 Weenie…

FullSizeRender

Made by the talented Spencer Simmons. 

There is this glorious period of time that exists between the moment you tell someone you can do something and the moment you actually have to step up and do it. It’s also super stressful.

Sometimes it is reveled that I am an artist of sorts, that I graduated from art school with a degree in woodworking and furniture design, that I studied photography, and that I am in the process of setting up a studio in my home.

Sometimes I talk way to much.

And they believe me. Just saying that I went to school for photography and woodworking makes me a great photographer and woodworker in their mind. Or at least one that is more than adequate. The conversation often will include a comment about how they would love to see my work or how they would love if I would do something art related for them.  I hope they never see my work and forget that I ever said anything.

Because until they see my work or give me a task to complete they just go off my word and they believe that I am more than an adequate artist. Once they see my work they may realize that although I call myself an artist I am far from one. Or if I help them with their art crisis I may fall short causing them to realize I am no artist at all, just someone with a lot of art making stuff and a misguided notion that they can do anything useful with it. I don’t know what their expectations are but I do know that I wont be able to live up to them.

I still haven’t convinced myself that I am an artist/woodworker/photographer or figured out what those words even mean or what it even looks like to be an artist/woodworker/photographer. It all starts to lead into this whole existential dilemma that makes me want to say FORGET IT. (Okay it makes me want to say a different  word that has four letters that also starts with the letter f but my in-laws, parents, and sweet people that might not appreciate such vulgarity might be reading this so I edited it.) 

And so I make excuses. I don’t have time, I have my daughter to take care of, my space isnt completely set up to work in yet, I don’t have the right tools, it’s too cold outside while also being too hot, the lighting is off, I ate to much or too little for dinner, I needed to check facebook every 5minutes, I don’t know how to use the equipment in my woodshop, the local lumberyard doesnt have the right wood that I like to use, I was going to work on it tomorrow, my nose itches, I’m probably getting sick so I should just curl up in bed with a book because I do not read as much as I would like, I am to tired and need to just go to bed, i’m just going to go to bed instead because that’s easier and no one will judge me while I sleep for not sleeping good enough.

This past christmas I got a christmas gift that called me on my shit. This gift was so good it called me out right in my excuse making face. To be fair the gift giver had no idea they were calling me out, they thought they were making me a nice gift. And it was a super nice gift. My sister-in-law’s husband made me a wooden beer carrier. He had seen it online, thought it was cool, and figured out how to make it with supplies he got at home depot in his basement where he is not hiding a state of the art wood shop as far as I know.

He thought I would like it so he figured out how to make it. The end.

If it was me I would have spent three months talking myself out of making it for any number of reasons that were not actual reasons based in any sort of reality, and then I would have just bought something while feeling blue about how little time I have to make art and the growing number of projects that I know I will never get too. It is so stupid but I have the hardest time changing my thinking.

But I have to. It has to change because until it does I am just going to be a wanna-be artist that is too much of an L7 weenie to do anything about it.

 

As always, thanks for reading.

-r.n.a.

 

 

 

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Traveling between universes…

How do you illustrate the power and emotion of growing up with divorced parents? The struggle of trying to live in two parallel universes? The transition of going from one parent’s house to the other?

Since moving to Maryland I have made a few trips to see my family at my dad’s house. Part of the route is the exact route I traveled every other weekend as a kid to visit my mom. It’s strange to be 28years old, with my own daughter in the back seat, driving the same route. The route is super charged with memories that pull me in reluctantly, flooding me with moments from all of those car rides. I am equally as moved by what has changed and by what has stayed exactly the same 10 years later.

I have always played around with the idea of making work about the duality of being raised with divorced parents. To illustrate how it felt to be raised in that setting, to make the conversation focus on the children of divorce. Not to shame parents who got divorced, or to some how make my own parents feel like they failed me in some way, but to say, ‘Hey having two birthday’s wasn’t as exciting as I wanted it to be,’ or express how frustrating it was to have someone ask if me and my sisters had the same mom, or how hurtful it was when I would say no and they responded with ‘Oh so then your actually only half sisters.’

Confession: I do want to shame those people because that’s actually just a turd thing to say to a kid. They are my whole sisters because love doesn’t play by your genetic technicalities.

For now the idea will continue to muddle around in the back of my brain, it will either continue to take shape or just float around as a fragment of an idea. I’m finding that is how my brain works, it needs time to really flush an idea out. It doesn’t like to be rushed. I remember hearing that Louise Bourgeois would spend 10 years from initial idea to finished piece. They would start as sketches, then become small hand-held clay or wood models, then slowly become bigger and bigger until she felt she had found the right scale. Of course she had multiple ideas being flushed out at any given time but all of her work followed a similar process.  In the mean time landmarks of my route between universes have started to show up in sketches and doodles, becoming the subject of my recent exploration in india ink. I don’t know where either this subject matter or this new medium will take my work but I’m enjoying exploring both.

As always, thanks for reading.

-r.n.a.

Tagged , , ,

An Artist with a Baby…

  A little over a year and a half ago I began research for my Art History Minor thesis. I wanted to look at how society’s pressure on women to become mothers effected women artists. Because it needed to be historical I added ‘and how/if it’s changed over time as society’s expectations of women have changed.’ I began scrolling through page after page of women artist’s wikipedia pages. I know wikipedia isn’t an up standing academic source but I needed to answer two questions very quickly about the artists I was considering for my paper; Did they have any children and when did they live. I had a long list of data that was eventually narrowed down to two women who were raised around the same time, with similar cultural expectations, whose lives led them down two different paths. Georgia O’Keefe, who had no children because her husband Alfred Steiglitz thought it would ruin her career, and Louise Bourgeois, a woman whose anxieties over not being able to conceive actually prevented her from conceiving a child until after she adopted her oldest son. I also included contemporary women artists like Sally Mann and Mary Kelly.

Around the same time Sheryl Sandberg was getting media attention for Lean In. As I was doing final edits, Michelle Obama was being criticized for calling herself Mom-In-Chief during a speech. It felt like everywhere I looked there were more facts, more things I wanted to talk about regarding women in art and mom’s in our society. But the paper had to be submitted and I had already exceed the minimum number of pages required. The semester ended and as my brain tried to shift gears to my second thesis paper for my major (which was on a completely different topic because I never thought to carry on my research and tie it into my studio practice) I found out I was pregnant. I was going to be facing my own challenges of balancing mom and artist. And all that research I had done just made the whole thing even more intimidating.

I remember during a visiting artist talk with a woman who refered to herself as a ‘stay at home mom who is lucky enough to have a studio practice too’, I had asked her how she balanced being both mother and artist. She told me to establish my career first and then pursue being a mom. It wasn’t the response I was expecting. Most artists can’t claim an established career until they are 40, a little late in the baby making game for a girl that wants a few kids. And at 27, the idea of waiting another 13years to have children seemed crazy. No longer are women told that they shouldn’t assure their failure as an artist by having children in art school, but there is still a very real idea spread around that regardless of your gender, kids just get in the way.  I returned to my research notes, I looked everywhere for glimpses of how mom artists were making it work. I read books, watched documentaries, and talked to anyone that would answer my questions. I walked away fearful that for most the pursuit of being a mom and artist simultaneously meant sacrificing their husbands. I really like my husband. I didnt want him to be the price I had to pay for an art career. Other women who seemed to have happy marriages seemed to have had a career established before having children. I was planning on walking across a stage to receive my diploma 5 months pregnant with no established art career other than obtaining a Bachelor of Art Degree with a Minor in Art History. It didnt feel promising.

I had visions of sharing my own experiences. Being open about how I was going to manage my studio practice once my little one arrived. Telling stories of how I gently rocked her with one arm while making brilliant art with the other. I would stay up late to get in studio time if need be and I would look back fondly on it all with a knowing smile.

And then she was born.

This little creature consumed every second of my life. With trying to heal, feed her, change diapers, and getting thrown up on without sleeping for more then two hours at a time there was no time for anything else. And that was with help! Any functioning brain cells were occupied with taking care of my little one. 

Even when I did find time for things, I wasn’t sure I wanted to share anything about what was going on. It all felt to personal and private to share. Despite my own frustration at how very little was said about finding studio time with a little one, I was unsure if I wanted to say anything on the topic. But being a mom has become such an all consuming part of my life, that if I make it off limits I dont know that I will have anything else of any real value to say.

I have started slowly, feeling like I have enough of a handle on taking care of my little one that I could slowly add something else to my plate. Reading Art + Fear during feedings was a great inspiration to get up the courage to get moving. I also started reading an Artists Guide, taking time to journal. I probably spent a month putting things in perspective so I would know what I was working towards. I found a grant and applied. Having to write out what I intended to use the grant money for was an awesome way to shape my intentions. It got the ball rolling. I wanted to be the artist I was talking about in my proposal.

Having spent time journaling and planning allowed me to mentally plan for the lack of time I would have for my studio practice while I prepared to move my family from Maine to Maryland. I knew it could potentially throw off the momentum I was building, but by scheduling it in and having a plan for what the studio practice looked like before, during, and after the move made the event a stepping stone in the grand scheme of things instead of a road block to intimidate me.

I came to the close on our second week in our new place and I finished carving out a space to work. I even found a little time to work. It has only been about 35minutes of hands on studio time but it was a glorious 35minutes. Some weeks that number will increase, and other weeks the number of minutes will get even smaller. But I am working and that is all that matters right now.

As always, thanks for reading.

-r.n.a.

I included links for the books I mentioned in my post but check to see if your local bookstore has them first.

Mary Kelly

Sally Mann

Georgia O’Keefe

Louise Bourgeios 

Tagged , , , , ,

Fighting to put in the hours…

IMG_3306As much as I hate those awful e-cards that find them selves shared on Facebook and re-pinned incessantly on Pinterest, sometimes they have meaningful insight written on them. Insight like, “Don’t compare your first chapter to someone else’s last.” It’s easy to do, especially as an art student when we are surrounded by images of artist’s final chapters. When looking at the volumes written solely about one particular artist it is easy to forget that they, like most artists, did not have their first solo show till they were 40 years old. It’s easy to read about the years these now iconic artist spent being ignored or criticized without accepting that it is a very real possibility that it will happen to you. To forget that still today not everyone likes the work of the great artists whose names have come to represent entire periods of art history.

It is these facts that are often forgotten when we hit those roadblocks, when what we thought was great is met with negativity and disapproval. They are forgotten when we are forced to come face to face with why we are doing what we do, the question of who all of this is for. It is in those moments of self-doubt, when walking away would make sense to anyone looking in at the situation, that determines whether or not you will ever put in your 10,000 hours. Because it is not just about putting in 10,000 hours of practice, it is about putting in those 10,000 hours in spite of the obstacles that will inevitably present themselves.

I write as if I have overcome the desire to walk away, as if I have come to terms with the fact that not everyone is going to like what I do or who I am. Right now I am inspired, I am looking forward to the future, the fight of getting in my 10,000 hours to be great at what I do. But in the back of my mind is always that little voice that whispers lies that I have to fight daily to ignore. The whispers of all the things I have failed at, the whispers of all the things I will fail at, the whispers of all of my faults as a human. Paying attention, even slightly, to that voice creates a tornado of self doubt that consumes both my brain and heart, leaving me with the feeling that the dream was taken away from me a long time ago and I have only been clutching its memory.

Every time the tornado hits, it becomes easier to get passed it, to see it for what it is. That does not mean that I will not spend the rest of my life battling it, for I surely will, but it means I am ready to battle it. I come out of each battle wanting this dream even more, even more determined to figure out how to make it work, how to be better. In the movie Train Robbers, John Wayne’s character says “You’re going to spend the rest of your life getting up one more time than you’re knocked down, so you’d better start getting used to it.” We have to get used to getting back up, remember all of the times we have gotten up in the past, so the next time we get knocked down we don’t lose hope, we know that we are only getting closer to achieving our 10,000 hours and our dreams.

As always, thanks for reading.

– r.n.a.

To listen to the Malcom Gladwell talk more about his 10,000 hours theory go here.

Tagged , , , , , ,