In my head I’ve started writing this post dozens of times.
Each time it spirals off into unrelated spiels. Like Jazz that starts tight and then devolves into noise and never returns to the central theme. Yeah, I know lots of people love music like that. It makes my ears bleed. I’m not actually much of a music person, really. I prefer silence. Maybe down the rabbit hole, like the White Rabbit, into madness is just as apt a metaphor.
In one version I started off explaining who I am and how I ended up on hiatus. It was pleasant. But then I realized my bio and residency proposal already do that.
Then I thought I’d dive into the physical impediments to my work. But really. I can unbury my studio. And even if it’s small, crowded, and not well lit, it is a space. I could work in there.
Then this past week two articles crossed my path: https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-why-motherhood-won-t-hinder-your-career-as-an-artist and http://www.salon.com/2015/01/25/sponsored_by_my_husband_why_its_a_problem_that_writers_never_talk_about_where_their_money_comes_from/
They delve more into the serious questions I want to explore on hiatus:
Am I am artist, and if so, do I want to stay one?
The first article made me want to pull my hair out. It hasn’t been children that have hindered my art practice, it was struggling before they ever came along. The article leaves so much out. How have these artists gotten to the point where art making is their sole income? How are they able to afford studios out of their homes, in New York no less?! Articles like this feed my vast self-doubt – do these people work day jobs then make art at night? Do they somehow have access to reserves of determination or energy that I lack? Do they not need to sleep? Do laundry? Do they not spend hours unraveling all the tasks left undone one day that have to carry over to the next and the next and the next? Do their lives simply run along, tickidy boo???
The second article makes me feel less awful, though still frustrated. If some of the artists I see are living ‘sponsored’ lives then I am less inadequate. But other artists (friends) I know definitely aren’t sponsored. And they do produce. Some of them a lot. They try to comfort me that we are at different stages of life. And I see the differences in our lives, I do. Some work one job (at the moment I work three). Some have older children (teens and adults, mine are 3 and 7). Some have actually retired to become full-time artists. There are differences but I always feel I’m messing up. I should be able to juggle the whirlwind of our lives and have reams of art to show.
And I can’t.
I’m just not able.
That kills me inside. I am supposed to be invincible. Able to handle anything with the appropriate application of wit and effort. Just like Rosie .
Totally no longer happening.
I have a husband, he has a full-time job and does half the home and childcare. By the time we get home and make it past supper, and baths, and stories, and chores.
I am done.
Out to lunch and gone.
Not only do I not have energy and motivation to drag myself into the studio. I don’t have brain power or inspiration. I don’t even watch much tv.
I go to bed so I can get up tomorrow and start all over again.
And that’s when the horrible cycle of anxiety, guilt, and pressure set in.
I call myself an artist but how can I be if I’m not making anything? Or even really thinking about making things.
I carry a sketchbook in my bag – I never use it.
I have a studio filled to the ceiling with supplies, of all kinds – they just sit there.
I have numerous projects started and unfinished – some for friends and family that have been waiting for YEARS. Others are commissions for incredibly patient clients.
Over the years I have worked hard to be a professional artist which, in Canada, is pretty much summed up by this:
…the Canada Council’s definition of a professional artist, which is an artist who:
– has specialized training in the artistic field (not necessarily in academic institutions)
– is recognized as a professional by his or her peers (artists working in the same artistic tradition)
– is committed to devoting more time to artistic activity, if possible financially
-has a history of public presentation.
To meet the definition of a professional visual artist, you must also have:
– produced an independent body of work
– had at least three public exhibitions of your work in a professional context over a three-year period
– maintained an independent professional practice for at least three years after specialized training.
I’ve worked hard and managed for 15 years to maintain this.
This past couple years so much of my ability to keep pace has crumbled.
And with that I question everything.
The validity of this as a way of defining myself. The worth of the effort I’ve expended making, volunteering, organizing…The arguments I’ve had over my priorities and decisions. The money I’ve spent.
In the definition, I highlighted the areas that most drive me to despair/rage:
First: OF COURSE I’D SPEND MORE TIME AT ART IF I COULD AFFORD IT!
Second: An independent body of work implies a large number of works deriving from the same source of inspiration. When my time is fragmented, the work is fragmented. What drove me one month is not what is happening the next. This is extremely frustrating – in a head banging, wailing, and gnashing teeth sort of way. I make work to submit to shows, to keep an exhibition record. These are not bodies of work. These are rarely based on my inner world or muse. They are to keep this box ticked off on funding applications.
Third: One public exhibition/ year in a context where you are paid to have the work shown (that’s what professional context means here) sounds reasonable. Sounds easy even. Until you look at everything involved – the research, applications, photos, submission fees, delivery costs, etc. and so ons. Beyond making an artwork, the admin work kills me.
Time time time time…
If only there was more time!
…if I wasn’t an artist, would there be enough time?