I did not go to work today because I had a nasty “stomach” and… well… let’s just leave it there.
After calling in sick, I went back to bed for a while, then made some phone calls (will the phone calls never end), then took another nap. By this time, I was feeling well enough to trot the dog around the block. And then I decided to “enter the studio.”
Last week I took a couple hours off to go give a talk “as an artist” to Walker Middle School (6th-8th graders). Frankly, I don’t know what I was thinking. Is there a harder age? I created a PowerPoint (Decoding the Arts) and brought a box of paper and various mark-making equipment. I figured if the talk failed, I’d just throw art stuff at them.
All things considered, it did not go badly. I WILDLY overestimated the time before they started squirming (I had 50 minutes, I planned a 30 minute talk; 20 minutes would have been optimistic). But the part about “Black Panther” went well and the kids that were inclined to do so enjoyed the various supplies.
However, I was scolded once. I was trying to explain to the kids that one of the key requirements of being an artist is being brave, taking chances, and also accepting criticism (not that I’m an expert). I showed them a bad painting of mine as an example and the kids started to giggle. The teacher came over with a sign. “In this classroom,” she rebuked me gently, “we don’t put down our own art.”
It was an interesting day, but it had the effect of TRASHING my studio. So, I entered and started to put away the piles.
Eventually, under the mountains and forests of my studio tables, I was able to find work in progress.
I left off at an attempt to start the 50 bird paintings I must completed if I am selected for the Community Supported Arts & Culture program that I applied for. In December, I prepared for this job by purchasing a couple of packs of mats and envelopes; now I need to fill them.
I’ve started with these.
I was tempted to tackle some larger projects, but 50 bird paintings is a daunting task. So instead of actually working on that, I worked on finishing some of the smaller pieces that were on the lowest level of the archeological dig that is my studio.
As you can see, I had a little too much fun with the turquoise acrylic (I’m not sorry). Because I have trouble wasting paint, I ended up applying another layer (another…) to this painting.
One of these days I will figure out what to do with that thing.
Cherry Blossom Festival
Above an around all these activities, I have spent serious time working on the Artist in Action (AiA) Cherry Blossom Festival events, which I am heading up this year.
The first event is called Parasol Parade. Essentially, artists sign out a rice paper parasol, decorate it, then give it to a business to display for a month to promise the Cherry Blossom Festival which happens in mid March.
This year, AiA added a poster contest. This was my idea. I thought a show would be easier to arrange than having dozens of artists deliver parasols. I thought (and think) that if this is successful, the parasol project might be terminated.
I was working on organizing all this, just getting to the real details, when Mom got sick and then died. By the time I was functioning again, there just wasn’t enough time to make all my visions into reality. And this is the week when all that is being sorted out.
A version of this always seems to happen to me. I have a vision, I do lots of organization work to make it happen, and then on the actual “day of”, I fall to pieces. People don’t read directions. They don’t do what you ask. They don’t volunteer. They have their own ideas. And I end up flustered and agitated.
This pattern has happened… well, all my life. In school I would do all the work for the group project and then at the last minute, everyone else had an idea. When I was running Pawsitively Clean, customers and employees would trample over my carefully laid plans. Dog shows and art events inevitably end up with me strung out and hysterical.
So as I was patiently (I hope) listening to an artist explain why the plan for that piece wouldn’t work, a thought flitted through my mind.
“Maybe I’m just bad at this.”
And then a feeling of relief swept over me.
If I am bad at this, I can stop doing it.
I tried to explain this epiphany to a friend, but she said, “Oh, Tara, you’re a terrific organizer. You just get frustrated with people.”
People. That’s the problem. Or…
“Maybe I’m just bad at this.”
I asked a different friend and she mulled it over. “I don’t think you should put it into terms of good and bad. You just can’t be successful in this role.”
I love that friend.
My mantra (interior as well as exterior) for volunteering to chair events (I’ll still work, I just don’t want to run anything) needs to be, “I’m not successful in that role.”
This theme of judgement is one I am struggling with right now. Mom was my great sounding board. I would run most things by her to make sure they seemed sound. Without her, I find myself struggling to come up with how to shape the boundaries of the world around me.
It isn’t that I don’t trust myself to be smart or to make good decisions. I’m finding it hard to know how to feel about things. Like evaluating my own art, there is a fine line between realism and harshness. There is a place for unwavering support, but there is also a spot where I need to put down the mantle of things that I don’t do well.
While I’m not done grieving, I’m starting to feel like moving forward is a good thing. What I’m discovering is that story telling is different than it used to be. I can’t tell this story to my mom, so how do I want to tell this story to myself?
That’s a big lift.