I met an artist guy once who proclaimed over dinner and plenty of wine, that art should never have anything to do with personal life. It should stand on its own. I was uneducated, young, and insecure. So I believed him.
Because he was a professor and I was a wannabee, the pieces I made after that felt inadequate. Dumb somehow. But they were the only pieces I could make so I kept making them.
Lesson # 1- Keep working anyway.
This month, in the weird way that life unfolds, three pieces I made during that era came back to me.
Lesson # 2 - The past sneaks up on us, whether we like it or not.
The first piece was one I traded to my friend Laura. It was called They felt they had been waiting all their lives. The year was 1998. I didn’t think about why I made it or why it got that title. Someone had given me an old set of prints, and I thought it would be fun to use them.
Lesson #3 - Intuition is usually right.
Laura loved the collage. After she died of breast cancer two years ago, I went over to her house and saw it hanging on the wall next to her bed. The depth of our connection pierced me true and deep. I wept; afraid I should have been a better friend. Her waiting was ended. Mine was continuing. For what?
Lesson #4 - Some Life questions are hard to answer.
Last week her husband texted to offer me that piece. It was too painful for him to keep. Two hours later, without any personal exchange, it was leaning against my front door. I carried it into the house gently - as if it were Laura herself - achingly missing her - but so glad the collage had come back to me, and somehow maintained the tether between us.
Then there was the piece I sold to Charlie Gonzalez, our fine, retired Congressman from the great State of Texas. (Alternately referred to as the great State of Denial.)
That one was called She was willing to do anything to avoid commitment. He laughed when he bought it, and later told me he gifted it to a girlfriend, who returned it to him when they broke up. I offered to buy it back, but he wanted to keep it. I was pleased. By then I had realized the piece may have described his former girlfriend, but it was mainly about me.
Last is a third collage in the series. Still owned by my friend Rachel, it’s called It was a conversation they repeated many times. I’m glad I’ve got the picture to share. Because it’s a reminder the conversation goes on, no matter how uneducated, fearful or tired of waiting we are. When we wake up and are willing to admit it, the art we make IS about us - random, insecure, full of bravado and crazy smart. It’s one good thing art does. Reveals our vulnerability in order to encourage others - our audience - to be brave.
Lesson #5 - Time in the studio is never wasted.