i'm in Johnson, Vermont as an artist in residence at the Vermont Studio Center. i've been here for two weeks already and, prior to coming here, i thought i'd be back to blogging every day the way i used to, the way i did the last time i lived in a forest. i planned to, actually, and was really looking forward to some time behind the keys, but i haven't had a studio in 6 years and i've never had a studio as large as what i was given here. not nearly. it's enormous. the sound of my fingers clicking across the black keys send a loud echo bouncing back from the high ceiling overhead. a moment ago, it was the sound of my pencil scratching against paper that reverberated against the walls - such a sweet sound. a sound i have long missed.
i didn't realize i missed drawing so much. i thought i would spend my entire stay here working on lace curtains but i've been drawing almost non-stop. it's all i want to do. the idea to write a blog post has found me every few days but evaporates as soon as i realize that would require me turning on my computer. it's been wonderful to check out from the digital realm for a bit, to be totally logged off. it's been wonderful to think only about my work, the scratch of the pencil and the paper below my hand.
the work i've been doing is largely just me clearing my throat, remembering how to wield a pencil again, remembering how to speak this language. and of all the signs and symbols that might have found me, my beloved fences are what came flooding back. i worked with the image of the fence for a few years and i felt as if i'd reached the end of that road about 4 years ago when i stopped making the Territories series. but here it is, suddenly scratching at my heart. this time, the meaning is totally changed, much more overtly autobiographical, much more of an obvious telling of my fears and dreams. the first time around, i was using the fence to try to stake some sort of claim- to my Self, to my life, to my dreams and goals, and to the life i wanted to build for myself. this time around, the fences are very much in reference to what i feel barred from, exiled from, the expanse i cannot cross, the territory i feel ejected from.
the first drawing i made here was a cameo of my mother holding me as a small child. the fence motif across the bottom of the paper was printed about 5 or so years ago when i was first working with this image. i came across this piece of paper shortly before leaving oakland and decided to bring it along.
i've been playing with the idea of drawing a picture of my mother for awhile now but, honestly, it's not the most attractive proposition. i think it helped that i had had a bit to drink the night her image found me here. still, i had to stop drawing every 2 or 3 minutes. staring at the old photograph of her as a young mother was a lot to take. at one point, i had to walk away from the drawing entirely. i was on the verge of tears and i didn't want to cry.
it isn't only my mother's death that is so painful but the death of an ideal- my entire perception and notion of what a family is (or could be) was obliterated when she died. i felt such a deep lonliness... a spiritual kind of homelessness. when she died, i stopped believing in God, i stoped believing in Family. i thought it was all a cruel, sick joke. i thought it was an unforgivable lie.
it's normal to feel this way, i suppose. it's normal to see oneself as so painfully singular when you wake up one day and realize you haven't (for one reason or another) got any parents. it's scary to stare at the world and know you've only got yourself to rely on. it's hard to look toward the future and accept the fact that you've got to build a life for yourself BY YOURSELF. it's hard to turn the blankets down at the end of a long day and believe that someone should be there with you once you finally get used to these ideas. it's hard to not percieve the facts as cold and malicious. the picture is not only of my mother, it's a picture of the type of life i feel barred from. it's a picture of the safety i no longer have and feel i may never have. it's a picture of my belief that i am without family, alone in the world, isolated, as island. it's a picture of a land that i once inhabited and can never walk across again... i can only make pictures from the other side of the fence.
but maybe it's being in love again. maybe it's the beautiful occasion of sleeping next to someone, of knowing and feeling that this other person trusts me to be careful with their body and their heart. maybe it's the beautiful occasion of finally beginning to trust someone else. it's not an easy thing for me to do.
i'm trying to come to terms with the fact that i am wrong about the notions i've held in regard to Family. it's normal, i think, to have felt so alone in light of all that's happened and it's normal to feel afraid about becoming close to people again... but it's scarier to think that i might end up robbing myself of the opportunity to truly know another human being, and to be known as well. and not just romantically. i think of my sweetheart constantly since leaving oakland but i've also been thinking of my grandmother. i want to be near her. i think of her sweet southern drawl and it makes me smile. maybe she would like to have this drawing. maybe it would only make her sad. but it's definitely a piece that should stay in the family.