Saturday, April 16, 2011

Art Blog: FEELING like an ARTIST

We are what we do? Are we? Some experts say it is hazardous to align your self identity with your job or career because if that job disappears (as is happening now for so many); you not only lose your job, but you also lose your sense of self. This may be true, but for artists I think it is a bit different.

I was born an artist. I knew I was an artist during my preschool years. I wrote a story once about my four year old self laying in the grass looking up at the clouds and thinking of when I would have my “blue period” ala Picasso. Of course, I didn’t think that literally, but my childish thoughts were similar. As the grass pricked my face, the cool breeze gently waved over my supine body, my mind wondered if the clouds would bring me answers. I now know I already had all the traits and attributes that made me what I am today: an ARTIST.

Since I have been alone 99% of my life, I have always had to work other jobs to make ends meet. Teaching has been the most common job and the most lucrative (?). I found out long ago that I could decrease the stress and worry about art sales if I could just find a way to get money that didn’t depend on people buying my art. I have sold a lot of work. However, it would never equal the amount I need to pay my mortgage, keep the lights on, and feed me all at the same time. So I am an artist who teaches.

I am wonky about being called an artist. I don’t like being called a teacher. No offense to the teachers of the world. I love you all. I know what you do and endure. However, my self identity is linked to the idea that Sheree is an artist. Nothing more. Nothing less. ARTIST

I came upon a photo last night of the Vermont Studio Center area of Johnson, Vermont. It brought back a rush of memories. You see, I have always had to work a job and be an artist at the same time. ALWAYS. There has been only one month of my life I was allowed to be just an artist. I forgot about bills. I forgot about real life issues. I gave myself permission to be just an artist. It was years ago when I spent a very cold January in Vermont. It was at the Vermont Studio Center. I did more work in that one month than any other time in my life. I lived and worked with other artists. It was like a commune of artists living an artist’s life. I truly FELT like an artist. It made me wonder what it would be like to just do art. I think I thought these thoughts because my job has been so draining this year. It has sucked the art life out of me. This too shall pass. In the meantime, I will continue to insist on my identity as an artist. I will demand that title. I have worked hard for it. I have earned it. I deserve it. I am Sheree the ARTIST.

Yes. IT IS WHAT I DO. It is also who I AM.

PHOTO CREDIT: Thomas Cummins
"Johnson, Vermont; Vermont Studio Center"

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Art Blog: Little Girl, You can pay your own RENT!

Something happened this week that was so weird. I can’t get it out of my mind. I live in my “art cave”. I rarely get phone calls and the only people to knock on my door try to sell me Jesus. Wednesday, I was sitting here working on my computer and there was a commotion out in front of my house. Little LuLu was barking like a mad dog and then I heard knocking. I went to the front window and there was a very thin woman. Through the window, I asked what she wanted. She asked me if she could pick some of the Japanese plums off the tree in my front yard. I told her to have at it!

“Take as many as you want!”, I told her. She yelled over her shoulder and a little girl around seven years old, hopped out of the car with a metal pail. They started pulling down branches and picked away. I watched through the window and the little girl pushed some of the plums into her mouth at a feverish pace. She either really like fruit or she was hungry. I turned and went out to my backyard and grabbed some grapefruits off another tree. I went back up front, opened the front door and asked “Do you like these?” The lady was so appreciative; she grabbed me and kissed me on the cheek. We stood there and talked for a few minutes. I told them my name. They told me they liked my door, the signs, and art wreath.

Then, the little girl plucked one of the bottle brush blooms off my plant and started to do an impromptu version of the “Napkin Game”. Do you remember that? She said “Sheree, Sheree…..Look!” Then, she put the long narrow flower over her top lip and started to recite. Here is how the game goes:

You use a napkin (in this case a flower bloom) in three different ways: as a mustache, as a hair bow, and as a bow tie. First a menacing, deep voice says: "You must pay the rent. You must pay the rent. You must pay the rent today." Second, using the napkin as a hair bow and using a tiny, girly voice you say "I can't pay the rent. I can't pay the rent. I can't pay the rent today." Then, the napkin is placed on your chest like a bow tie and in a male hero's voice say, "I'll pay the rent" Then the hair bow girl says: "My hero". The finale is when the mustachioed landlord says:"Curses, foiled again."

When the little girl was done, I smiled a huge smile and told her: “Do you know how old that game is? My sisters and I used to play that game when we were little and I am older than your mommy!” Then I continued, “But you know what? That game is the same but the ending is different now. I took the flower from her hand and said in a feminine but forceful voice: “It is OK I can pay my OWN rent!!” LOL LOL LOL LOL The little girl’s face lit up like a light bulb. She smiled huge too. Then she said:


I burst out laughing and I said “YEP!”

Yes. Some things stay the same for generations.
However, other things CHANGE big time!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Art Blog: Herding Cats

Besides making art, I LOVE to organize. This skill set has been apparent since I was a young artist and tried to coordinate galleries and curate shows. I just love making lists and databases. I love thinking in terms of the whole picture. I love collecting data. I think this is partially the left brain portion of my VIRGO birth right. Yet, I am sure it also has to do with the need for my left brain self to find some kind of sense and control in my art world.

However for an artist to try to make sense or take control is almost an oxymoron. It goes against the grain. Also I have had so many, many times in my life; I am reminded that artists are of a certain ilk (myself included). We don’t want to be documented, organized, or told what we should or should not do. This is good and bad all at the same time.

I know it has been my experience over the years to try to help artists show their work. I have organized what seems to be a gazillion shows. During the coordination of most of them, there has been a minute or two of exasperation. Some artists are disorganized, undependable, and at times, self defeating. Despite these tendencies, I have swung my lasso and tried so hard to wrangle them in at least long enough to get the show up or see we get through the exhibition opening.
I have often thought: this is like “HERDING CATS”!

For decades, I have been in situations in which artists can’t agree on the color the walls should be. They argue about the kinds of nails to be used or even worse, come with no nails at all. There is the issue of the diversity amongst artists. The realists don’t want to be associated with the abstractionists. The painters don’t want to hang with the poets. The fine artists detest the crafters. It goes on and on.
This week, James Kalm put a link on Facebook that made me think of my herding cats reference. New York City Occupational Employment Statistics wants to count artists. Well, good luck with that. I bet artists would never agree with your data, let alone help you gather it. Just sayin.

Click pic to read article
It might be a good idea. However, it goes against artist’s NATURE.
I do have an idea though. Why doesn’t the city of NY just put out a tweet that calls for an ARTISTS FLASH MOB?
“ALL ARTISTS MEET AT (whatever) intersection at XXX pm on ZZZ day!”
Yep. That might be the most promising idea. Artists MIGHT do that.