Monday, March 2, 2015

Being an Artist

What does being an artist mean? If I never sell one piece of work, am I still an artist?

I've been really content lately. Making things, marketing things, and just doing what I do down here. 

As people, we all look for that validation. The big mark that means I've made it. The finish line. 

But is it necessary?

I've always been a goal oriented person. Think of what you want, place that mark and make strides to meet it. When you get to the mark, celebrate. Then repeat.

Over the last 10 years, I've found the journey is equally as important. A stretch of learnings, successes, failures and new paths that open up. In addition, you constantly meet people along the way that help you with that journey.

A man recently came back to town I met about three years ago. A very successful glass sculptor who one night after work followed me with my friends from one after work bar after another. He wanted to continue on but I needed to go home. 

We both laughed and howled at the full moon which he called a Beaver moon. And it is still his name in my phone.

We had one serious conversation at Don's Place of all places where he asked me about my relationships and if I was ready to move beyond what I knew. To choose something different and find that person to really be with. I responded with a shaky "I hope so".

It dawned on me that it wasn't just the type of people I was picking, but maybe I was afraid of being fully present in a relationship as well.

He came into the restaurant for a glass of wine on Friday and we quickly reconnected. I showed him his name on my phone and asked if this was his same number. We both laughed.

Decided to meet up for lunch while I was at the beach and we chatted about what we've been up to. Normally I'd be a little fussed out about his being something, a someone - a selling artist. Maybe even compare it to where I was and feel bad, but I wasn't this time around.

As he told me about his different gallery stops, I told him of my travels to Bali, paddle board excursions, painting with a Buddhist monk, my previous life as an ad exec and yoga teacher training.

His eyes widened with each mention. I just smiled and remembered my journeys with such love.

He was being called back to the gallery to take pictures with someone who just bought a piece of his artwork. I continued on with our lunch solo and gave him an invite to an art show later on during one of his other breaks. A great group of people I met through another little gallery I worked hard to be a part of.

As I made it to the gallery opening the first person I see is Eric. Literally the very first person I met in town. My art mentor so to speak. 

We used to huddle in the gallery corner watching and commenting on the show within the show. Tonight we are standing on the actual street corner chatting about Leonard Nimoy passing and how I saw his photography at Art Basel and how disturbing it was. His photos of grotesque overweight women in clown make up holding knives was the image I saw when I heard he passed.

Eric laughed. He was inspired by those pieces while I was just horrified.

David stopped by for a bit but had to get back to the gallery. Eric asked if I wanted to go grab a bite and a drink. We rolled down to a restaurant I hadn't been to and started a long harried conversation about relationships. 

Eric had asked me out at one time. I had to tell him I had no interest in him other than just being a friend. We didn't talk after that for a year. I felt awful but it was the truth. He realized how hard this was when he had to do the same thing to another girl not too long after. That's when we started talking again.

He wanted to ask me out back then. I look him in the eyes and told him I was such a hot mess when I arrived down here. Broken and broken hearted. He knew.

We get to talking and what we both want is the same. To find someone that we can be with but also allows the freedom to do what we want to do. Like Iceland. Like painting bugs for days on end. Like having solo time to gather up whatever ideas are percolating up in a swim at the beach.

"Its not so easy to find, I think it scares guys. Makes them feel like I don't need them." I tell Eric

"Are you kidding me? That is every guys dream." he responds with a laugh.

I'm still not so sure. Is it an artist thing? Are we just weirdos? Maybe. 

Which eventually comes back to art. I ask Eric the same question I've been thinking about. "If I never sell a piece of work, am I still an artist?" 

We both discuss our recent rejections via the art world and laugh. He reminds me to just keep putting it out there. And I think he alludes that I need to dive more into my dark side. We go back to his house where I see the giant new studio he's building for his work. 

It's amazing and quite a monument to his work as an artist. Building a separate space as big as your house with lighting and display areas to be a working professional gallery is pretty fantastical. Kinda like the first place I met him.

"I love it. Its so amazing Eric." I say as I pet Gabe his thug of a cat who I used to hang out with drinking coffee in Eric's back yard. Way back when I lived in his old art storage shack for the month or two before I headed off to Spain.

Gabe lays under my parked bike as a road stop for me not to leave. I love that cat. I love that time.

My phone's sherwood forest horns trumpet a text from David to come meet him for a drink and a laugh but its been a long day. Season Three of House of Cards and my bed are calling but I promise to catch him tomorrow for coffee and yoga.

As expected he doesn't quite meet me in the am, but texts me. I tell him to meet me at the yoga studio where I have just gotten out and am enjoying a latte with coconut milk. He tells me how fantastic that is but he's now heading to the gallery where he's got to sell. 

I tell him I'll roll by to say hi and goodbye in a bit. Bike down to the gallery in my yoga gear and see all his work displayed in the front window with a giant poster of him trying not to burn his flesh off while making a piece. 

"Is David here?" I ask the gallery worker and they motion in the back office for him to come out. He hears my voice and bounces out as much as one can bounce after bar hopping all night. 

He tells me how he likes my yoga pants and asks me if I want to go out the back door to Hogs Breath and get a bloody mary. I say yes and we belly up to the bar for one last chat.

"Do you like it here?" he asks

I do. There are some things I would like more of but for the most part this place allows me the freedom to have the life I want to live. Where I can travel and create art. Those are the things I love most in this world.

I tell him about the question that's been in my head. "If I never sell a piece of work, am I still an artist?"

He tells me about how his art career came around. He was working several jobs and making these glass sculptures. He didn't know if they would sell and he thought to himself one day, if he never sold one would he stop making them? The answer was no.

And so he kept on making them. And then one sold. And then another. And then it just took off. But he always remembers thinking even if he didn't sell one, he'd still keep on doing it cause he loved it so much. 

We talk about trips in the works and I tell him about my plans to go to Iceland. His eyes light up.

"Do you need a travel buddy?" cause he's been wanting to make ice sculptures and Iceland would be the perfect place to go for inspiration. 

He tells me how much where he lives means to him. The mountains, the water, his family. He asks if I still have grandparents and I say no but do tell him about one of them. She was the one who taught me to paint and create. 

I laugh and tell him how she did everything. Sew, beading, painting, pottery, hitchhiking and her crazy sense of humor. Her love of twisted movies like Clockwork Orange and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. 

Especially the sick delight she probably got watching the scene of Bettie Davis serving a dead rat on a silver platter to Joan Crawford and I laugh.

"You sound just like her." he says.

"I do." I say looking down with a smile. 

And though I had no idea, this is exactly the validation I had been looking for. 

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