coffee coffee coffee. and it's raining. no painting outside today. but that's alright. ever since we made the decision to work toward the next phase of life, a very warm sense of relief has spread through me. just the decision itself is a great comfort. i feel relaxed. i feel like i have a direction. and so i'm not too concerned with how long it might take to accomplish the goal, i'm just happy to have a goal identified. concrete. here. in front of me.
the feeling that i'm just floating around without direction is a horrible one for me. it feels like non-movement. anti-motion. and it bothers me. it chips away, slowly slowly, at my confidence in my ability to take charge and get things done. it's just such a wonderful feeling to be on the exact same page at the exact same time with another person. it throws in a healthy dose of security... and that's great when you're gearing up to take a risk.
5 years ago, i moved to the bay area with $300 and a big ol' dream to chase. my 25th birthday was my first day of class at CCA. i sat on the bench, glad through and through, thankful, surprised, awe-struck, beside myself with happiness and wonder. and it has been a wild ride since. flipping back and forth between the extremes of life. both elation and anguish have presented themselves in equal measure, one right after the other, back and forth, back and forth. and i suppose that's life. but that drastic shift, that polarity, can be as damaging as it is educational.
the last 2 years we've spent out here in wine-country have largely been about repair. it has been good and safe and warm here. i have down-sized the amount of possessions that follow me through life, i started jogging and have kept up the practice for a year now. the iffy disk in my back is a lot less iffy as a result. i'm healthier, i sleep better, i am happier, more self-assured and confident than i was the first night i slept in this house. my old self has returned to me. fiery and eager and with a good amount of courage to draw strength from. and also, the daily practice of writing. every morning for 2 years, i practice my "waking ritual". a cup of coffee and a flying pen. i start writing before my mind really wakes up. the self-censoring mechanism still sleeping. that practice alone is responsible for so much good. so much deep, hard won, painful repair.
and since the new year began, my practice has only picked up steam. painting and drawing and writing and reading. and with so much time to spare too! i've gotten faster at making work. i've learned, all of a sudden, how to get ideas out and not get hung up by the nag of perfectionism. perfectionism is a fucking killer in the same way that stress and anxiety are killers. maybe they are all the same bad wolf dressed in a different sheep skin.
and so related to all these things (and inspired by the questions asked and wrestled with at elisabeth's blog), i've been thinking about autobiography... what it is to tell the story of one's own life.
in some ways, visual artists have a much easier time with this than writers do. and that's simply because we aren't being literal, we're creating images and images can be read in a multitude of ways much easier than words on a page. the story of my life, as presented in a collection of images, provides a bit of a cloak. i can wrap my story in metaphors. i don't have to spell things out. and the charge to "be fair" doesn't really exist. and so i started thinking about that- the fairness issue when it comes to art making, be it painting or writing. and this morning i think it's a hurdle that needs to be gotten over. a fear that needs to be overcome.
because, really, i can only tell my story.
no one else can tell it for me.
and i can't tell anyone elses.
fairness, when it comes to how others may have perceived something, isn't my responsibility as an artist or as a writer or as a human being. there's no way i can ever really know FOR SURE what another person's life has been. i am only responsible to tell my story honestly. fairness is in the listening.
i can practice fairness by being willing to listen to the stories of others. i practice fairness by allowing all the stories to be out on the same table at the same time and by giving each story equal respect. but when it comes to my story, i am simply charged to tell it the way it is, without cruelty, without ploys for sympathy, without ulterior motives of attaining forgiveness or acceptance or accolade. i am charged to be as honest as possible. flatly honest. no sentiment or excuse for myself. no self-pity and no blame.
it is a charge that is hard to meet. the normal human fears and frailties get in the way some days. it's normal i think for artists and writers to fear that they've said too much, that they said it wrong, that they didn't do a subject justice. but when it's autobiographical work, as long as i tell the truth about myself and what my experiences have been, and leave other people's experiences to them, i've done the only job i can do. it is up to other people to tell their own story... and to tell it without blame or minimization. if there has been a horror, speak of the horror. speak of what you saw. speak of it directly. this is not the same thing as unleashing an attack on someone else. describing what my experiences have been, my perception of the world and the events of my life, can be stated without judgement. i can embrace the great grey of all these things.
the only person in the entire world that i can ever truly know is myself. i can only claim to know the workings of my heart. and as long as i don't compromise in the telling of it (and self-pity is a compromise), i've done alright. i can accept the story of my life and give others the room and respect they need to try to do the same. art is a nebulous thing that way: the grey area looks different to all of us. describing the contours of it from where we each sit is an entirely compelling, worthwhile thing. i can be fair and listen to all the stories that do not make excuses for themselves. art does not need a excuse, anyway. it never has.
these texts are an archive of my life in the San Francisco Bay Area from march 2007 - march 2015. it stands as a record of close to a decade of my life, charting the struggles i faced as an artist, daughter, and lover. messy and chaotic at times, eloquent and poetic at others, these texts are an index i am proud of. it was here in this electric box that i learned how to be honest about my experiences and the person i needed to become. it was here that i first learned the truism that words make the world and how to trust such a beautiful, rife, hard fact.
thank you for meeting me here in such tall grass.
my artist website is here.
my artist website is here.