As much as I love (and am quite challenged by) the painting work that I’ve doing, I still can’t get away from my desire to work more “hands on”. Couldn’t resist this picking this old Singer 328k pretty cheaply from an estate sale two weeks ago, along with a bag of vintage embroidery pattern transfers circa 1900-1940s. While I have been ever so slowly teaching myself garment construction on my regular sewing machine, this sewing machine screams “Make some sculptures with me!!!” Well, if I can get it up and running that is. So far, I’ve been able to get it from not running at all (totally locked up), to running inconsistently. So far I have taken the machine apart, cleaned and oiled to best of my amateur ability, and taken the handwheel and belt off to clean and inspect. Hoping more tlc is all that’s needed, else I’m running out of ideas :).
I’m probably one of the most inconsistent bloggers out there. 2 years since I last posted? Life has been full as always, and I have been back in the studio for the last year (plus) slowly working away on a new series that has occupied my mind and any and all of my extra time. The last time I truly painted was back in art school and a little bit after. Painting and I broke up and I saw myself on a mostly sculptural path forever after… but things change, and when I found myself staring at old work and an empty studio once Noah moved out and Avolia didn’t get off the ground properly, I just couldn’t find inspiration in my previous work and had no heart to continue. I started from scratch with drawing in acrylic ink that I had had lying around the studio for probably years. It felt good to draw again, I began to have ideas again… and even better, began to tap into all the worries and anxieties I had been carrying around in my heart. This quickly moved into a trip to the art supply store for paint. Intellectually it felt like artistic suicide to paint again and even worse, the subject matter of my own children. But you know what, I’m almost 40, and I really don’t give a fuck about what I should or should not be doing artistically anymore… and I couldn’t get away from it… painting has become my journal in the last year and a half. The work is slow, it takes months of finding time, but it’s the most satisfying and “right” work I’ve ever done, honestly.
Work in progress pic of “The Talisman”.
I’m not sure even where exactly to start. Today it started when I couldn’t turn on my husband’s computer to use the printer- a sudden boiling angry rage took over my body and I desperately wanted to start tearing apart the computers and throwing them out the window. I immediately wanted to blame my husband- WHY does everything he sets up seem to need an engineering degree to work?? But really, why does not getting the computer to work bring up that level of anger. Seriously? And then suddenly I was stressed beyond function, getting short with my kids and yelling. Yesterday it started when an unexpected phone call derailed my smoothly laid morning plans. Today it hit me. I’m angry. I mean really really angry. I don’t even know why. It also hit me that it’s been a year and a half since I have done any art. Any little bit of spare time I’ve had has been focused on my product and I’ve stifled/crushed/stepped on any desire to be creative out of a sense of responsibility to see my idea to it’s finish. I have learned TONS along the way, but in today’s brief moment of clarity I saw the impact of stifling my creative self for too long.
This year started with pulling my son out of school to homeschool him/figure out why school has been so stressful academically. After watching him work for a month or two we were back at the therapist immediately finalizing a diagnosis we’ve been skirting the edge of since he was in early elementary- inattentive ADHD. We’d always been able to do just enough- putting him in a wonderful private school helped for several years and he was always smart enough to do just well enough that we could go for periods of time without being concerned. Those periods of peace became shorter and shorter until high-school, which was a nightmare from day one. Typing this out all sounds so easy- but the emotional process of coming to this conclusion has been the hardest thing I have faced as a parent. Even harder than my separation with his dad, as traumatic as that was. Feeling backed into a corner that medication was our only real option, facing many other’s doubts that ADHD was even a real thing (whether mental illness/learning disabilities are real or not could be a whole other frustrated blog post. In a nutshell for those who say it’s not real, if you haven’t personally lived through it- then you have NO FUCKING IDEA what you’re talking about!!), being told that boys just get this way and then they grow out of it. I spent sleepless night after sleepless night going over and over every aspect of what we/he had been through and there is just no doubt. I wish that made it even easier, but it doesn’t. In the process of going through this with my son I woke up one night realizing that he was reliving my own junior high/high school experience that I had blocked out for a long, longs time. Fuck. I knew exactly where he had gotten this from. My experience after several awful years of conflict with my parents around school was a mutual leaving home/getting asked to leave near the end of my 16th year. I felt like I was getting a “do-over” with my son, but not long after he was officially diagnosed and we started trying to find the medication that was the best fit, he asked if he could move in with his dad in Houston and start over. He, my husband, and I had had our own share of conflict over the past couple of years over academics. Add to that a desire to not have to go back to the same high school after leaving twice now (he had finished up his freshman year at a small charter school before begging to return to the local high school) and a long standing fantasy of living with his dad and he was ready for a fresh start. In my hardest act of “if you love them let them go”, I agreed. He moved May 29th. While he and I stay connected through talking and texting, and there are still things I’m managing from a distance, the fact that he is no longer living with us leaves me with an unshakable feeling that I’ve failed. I know we’re still in the middle of it all, but that feeling is deep and I can’t seem to separate from my own childhood pain that is bubbling up living through an aspect of this again.
Three days after my son moved out I get a call from my Mom. They’re going through their own huge challenges, not the least of which is the 95% probability that my dad has thyroid cancer. All of his testing so far says it’s very likely, but we won’t know for 100% sure until he has surgery next month. I could make this paragraph longer but I won’t out of respect for their privacy.
Cue three more weeks and it’s my son’s 16th birthday. It’s not the first birthday I haven’t spent with him since his dad and I have been splitting summers for years, but knowing he wasn’t coming back beyond visiting hit crazy hard. After a full day of near tears and actual tears I get a call from our vet. Tests are back and our German Shepherd has advanced cancer. The fun just does not stop. We’re told that it could be 6 weeks, but we should start saying goodbye to her and choose a time. My husband was off for the following week and we decided we would spend the week with her before taking her back in. 4 days later I’m cooking dinner and turn the corner to realize our dog is no longer breathing. Probably the best for her- as she passed on her bed with family sounds and normalcy all around…but it was personally pretty traumatic to find our dog dead in our kitchen.
Now let’s move on to the professional level. I’ve spent the last almost two years developing a sports tank for nursing moms- something that as a runner and a mama I really needed after each of my kids was born. It wasn’t until after my third little one that I thought “hmmmm, let’s see what we can do about this.” I have proceeded to learn apparel manufacturing and how to run a business from the ground up, which has been no easy task! This process culminated in a Kickstarter Campaign to fund the first run of tanks. Annnnnnnnnd, well, while it’s technically still going for another 10 or so days, let’s just say I’ve raised less than $1000 so far. It has been shared like crazy in mom’s groups, breastfeeding groups and parenting groups. I’ve gotten tons of excitement and positive feedback…. but no one wants to buy it or invest in it. I have to admit I’m having mixed feelings because about 3/4ths of the way through this project I realized it was rapidly pushing me into the role of a full-time working mom, which I am not by choice. I love being with my kids for the most part and I really do love being a stay at home/work at home mom. I didn’t realize everything it took to truly run an actual company until much later in the game and then spent some more sleepless nights feeling guilty about not being with my kids enough. With a failed Kickstarter I’ve just saved myself another year plus of my kids childhood trying to make something work that ultimately wouldn’t (not to mention lots of $$$$). Last but not least, I can’t tell you how much I desperately missed making art. It’s SO hard, this one, because it is a labor of love and not money. It sometimes feels so irresponsible. Starting a company was great for my ego- I felt so grown up, so…together! Having it fail, while secretly (though not secret anymore as I’m typing it here) relieving on one level, has been HARD on my ego for sure. Add it to my list of things I feel like I’ve failed at. Cue the old childhood feelings of “you’ll never amount to anything” and “you’re wasting you’re potential”. Ugh, I can feel the depressed funk creeping in every time I start thinking about it for too long.
Add a four year old and a 21 month to the mix of all of this and I feel like I can’t catch my breath most days. My daughters are amazing and beautiful. They are also firecrackers that feel driven to challenge every.single.boundary. So they will probably succeed in all the areas I’ve failed in and take over the world, which is awesome… but raising two very strong-willed little girls is fucking exhausting most days.
Come back to today. I feel like an erupting volcano of lava and black slime. of poison. I realize that I’ve been keeping a lid on my emotions since I was very young. I was always the good, easy quiet kid until I became the willful, stubborn, stoic “uncaring” teen, until I figured out how to keep control and a mostly patient, sweet, calm outward being. It’s more complex than that, because I am naturally quiet and introverted, but somehow that has led me down a lifelong path of stuffing every strong emotion and pretending I’m not feeling it. CONTROL is the word. I want to go back in time to my child-self and tell her it’s okay to laugh too loud, to scream, to cry. Tell her you don’t have to go through life telling people “it’s fine, it doesn’t matter”, because sometimes it really does matter. This year I can’t keep it up. It’s been slowly leaking out of me, but now I’m cracking all over and falling to pieces. Even my running can’t keep it down the way it used to. It helps, but where I used to feel so free just getting out the door, I instead spend the first 3 miles of every run feeling like I’m having a panic attack. Then as I keep pushing pushing pushing running running running it slowly subsides until I feel ready for another day. One day at a time.
The worst part of all of this? I feel angry for even feeling angry. Can you say first world problems? My kids are healthy, my husband loves me, has a great job, I even get to choose to stay home with my kids. I feel like an asshole for even complaining…and I feel like a shitty mom for my kids not being “enough”.
But I am. I feel like throwing furniture through the windows. I feel like running until my heart stops beating. Not all the time, but waaaayyyy more than I am comfortable with.
I am making a promise to myself to get back in the studio and start making art again. I don’t know what it’s going to look like. I look at my older pieces and it feels like even my art-making process is a way to maintain control. Like I’m suppressing my emotions stitch by stitch, pencil stroke by pencil stroke. I need to let go. I don’t know how.
This whole blog post is a messy mess. Something tells me that’s all it’s going to be for awhile.
Just for the record though, my husband had to send me an entire descriptive multi-step email telling me how to turn his computer on. There are very cool aspects to being married to an engineer/musician, but using his electronics is not one of them.
I have to laugh some, or maybe a lot, at my last post in November of 2013 titled “Back”. I had NO idea what “back” was really going to be like with three kids. Things have been rewarding, challenging, nutso, and full of growth- both in how our family works and my own view of my career. As in, the lines are now quite blurred between life and career, I can hardly see where one begins and one ends. Everything continues to become more and more integrated.
To begin back in 2013, my post “Back” was actually to be the last time I was in my studio for awhile. I had no idea now little creative energy I realistically had at the time and how much energy I would really need towards the kids. We went through a rough time with my teenager, alongside having a 2.5yr old and a newborn. I would often joke that I didn’t know which kid I was losing the most sleep over! What it really amounted to, was I was losing sleep over every one of them, and therefore, not sleeping at all most of the time.
During this time I had this nagging idea over and over again for a clothing item for nursing moms. I was struggling with a particular aspect of my wardrobe and couldn’t shake the idea that this particular item needed to exist. Well, really, my exhausted self wanted to purchase it, but couldn’t find it anywhere. SO… after much thought, designing, and prototyping, my little company AVOLIA has been born. It’s still not up and running as I am currently working with a local manufacturer towards a manufacturing prototype (as opposed to working with a seamstress like I was previously). But you can see where my creative mind has been these days. It’s been great intellectually as I have been climbing a steep learning curve. Sometimes overwhelmingly steep. I find myself thinking sometimes that if I knew now much work it would really be, I probably wouldn’t have begun this project last year. But it’s too late to stop now- little by little (Sometimes frustratingly so very little) I keep moving forward.
Speaking of intellectual challenges. Our struggles with the teen has led me to homeschooling him. I can now add “teacher” and “educational guidance counselor” to the list of things I do :). It is such an enormous change that I have dedicated an entirely new blog to the process.
Things often feel like they are moving slowly, though I am juggling many things. Most days it feels like I’m running through quicksand and I can’t see what I have accomplished until I have the time to look back. It has been an eventful year- raising three kids, starting a company and homeschooling. I have moments where I long to just get into the studio and work creatively on something that doesn’t have a particular goal. Like art for art’s sake. That is my big undertaking for the next couple of months, to find the time to get back into the studio just to create. Create whatever, no goals, no end desires. I have enough of that in my life. I just want to play, really. I miss that more than anything.
Well so much for all that productivity & writing I planned for the second half of my pregnancy! Biology trumps all, and while I was incredibly productive when it came to getting ready for babe #3, my studio practice slowly ground to a halt despite my best efforts. I literally got to a point where I simply could not concentrate on anything but the upcoming baby- it was like an obsession.
But she’s here now! Above are my two munchkins at 27mos and 2 days old. I would have a picture of my teen but he hates pictures right now.
In the middle of so much snuggliness and sweetness my kids are kicking my ass- every.single.day. My teen is being very much a teen, the two year old a two year old & the newborn is being herself as well. She’s 6weeks old now and I’ve just begun to ignore the mountain of unfinished things in my house and go up to my studio when the sitter arrives twice a week. I still have the baby with me, but being down to one relatively quiet child is a reprieve from the near-constant chaos. And what am I doing? Staring blankly at my unfinished pieces. I just don’t have the creative energy back yet to tackle them… my art is like another child that needs my constant nurturing.
So I’ve decided to take some space for a bit & use this time to go through all my neglected art books. Read & reflect. Generate new ideas to build on old ones… and draw again. Break out the sketchbook and draw draw draw. No pressure, no shows, just a quiet time to regroup. Now I’m really looking forward to the next couple of months!!
I want to start by saying it’s so embarrassing just how distracted I’ve been lately- this is my 3rd
attempt at posting! My first two times I didn’t get further than a title and some tags, then completely spaced I had set up the post to publish in a day or so. 3rd time’s a charm, so this time there is some content!
On that note, the first 6 months of the year has completely fit the phrase “the days are long, but the years are short”. In hindsight, the last few months have flown, but there were some very long days in the process. Many studio hours have been dropped to take care of my family through various illnesses this year. Mostly the normal virus stuff that descends late winter/early spring, but also my husband was quite ill with scary headaches for a month and out of work. We went through every bit of testing under the sun, stopping just shy of a lumbar puncture because he finally started showing signs of recovery.
And through all of this, I’m also pregnant with our third :). So in between all the family illness, you could
find me dragging myself around through a quicksand of exhaustion and nausea. Fun stuff. Fortunately, I’m now at 21weeks and feeling pretty good.
All family members appear to be healthy, and I’m back to work in the studio!
Things still have been moving forward, albeit at a snail’s pace. I finished my large piece I’ve been working on since last October, (portion of which is pictured at the top) along with another medium small piece (below). I still need to carve out some time with the nice camera and get them on the site.
While I told myself I would focus the rest of my time this year on smaller pieces, since once the next little gal arrives my production will slow way way down again, that’s not how the ideas have presented themselves. Instead I have begun two larger pieces that I will be lucky to have completed by the time she arrives. Oh well- it’s exciting to be starting something new again!
They are obviously still in the beginning stages, especially the last image, but they will get more interesting over time.
I remember vividly having a moment of anxiety over applying for a show while I was studying at the University. My video professor at the time came over and laughed very hard when I told him why I was freaking out. (he thought it might be something actually serious like accidentally erasing my latest project, etc). He told me I better grow some thick skin because if I was upset at every potential “no” or actual “no” from shows I would never make it as an artist. Here he was an accomplished, internationally shown video artist telling me he always hears more “no’s” than “yes’s” and that most artist do. They build their careers on the yes’s they receive. I soon learned the same story from several of my other professors, again who were all accomplished artists in their own right.
I have to say, this was some of the best advice I received while in school. I hold those words near and dear to my heart as I apply for shows. As sensitive as I am (and I believe most artists are), it is hard not to feel a little wave of hopelessness and begin to question your work when dealing with rejection. I’m not talking about a good critical look at the work, which is healthy and important, but more “why am I even doing this” kind of questioning, which seems to only arrive in the face of rejection. Otherwise, left to my own devices, simply the making of, and answering whatever questions I have posed for myself within the making (of art) are in themselves enough to sustain my practice. Not only is facing a no the time to re-ground myself in my original desires as an artist, but also cherish every yes that does come my way. Because in the end, I do also desire to contribute to my children’s college funds, etc through my art. Each yes, however small, puts me one step closer to achieving that goal.
(sorry for those who received an incomplete version of this earlier- i thought I’d finish in time but got busy and didn’t before it published)
Wow, I am about 3 weeks behind with blogging with now. Amazing how easily distractions can happen and next thing you know, lots of time has flown by.
Before I get to my regular post, I am very excited to share that my piece “a cold wind is blowing” won and honorable mention in the Providence show!
Beyond that, things have been extremely quiet in the studio…which has been lovely. There seem to be be no shows to apply for that match my work, which means that all I am doing is simply focusing on the work at hand. While applying for shows this fall and winter was fun, it’s really nice to just work on actual pieces again with no agenda around them. Which brings me to my recent thoughts while working…
Generally, my process is work work work, and once I have enough work to put up- then apply for a few shows and go back to work. I like to forget about those shows until I receive a yay/nay email, which keeps me from obsessing about them. Every now and then though, there is a show that I know is coming up and it’s happening at the same time I am almost but not quite finished with a piece or two. At least for me, this has never been a good thing, and I learn the same lesson over and over again. Which is NEVER rush a piece to be finished!
There recently was one show that I just couldn’t ignore. Because I had applied twice a few years ago and not gotten in- I get both emails & postcards telling me to apply for the upcoming show. And of course since I didn’t get in before- well, it’s like responding to a challenge! Anyway I had work that I quickly finished up so I could make the deadline without giving any of the pieces the all-important “waiting period” of one-four weeks of just looking them periodically & reassessing. Once again I didn’t get in- and up the pieces went onto the “waiting wall”. Sure enough, within a week two of the three were undergoing major changes because they weren’t even close to finished at all. This happens about 90% of the time… so this time- lesson learned! I will not rush to finish anything for a show that I don’t even know if I’m in. I need to write that 100 times.
Now that that’s over I am finally getting close to finishing my big piece I’ve been working on since October as well as a newer piece I’ve begun. As I said earlier, the quiet space to just work on them and think is just lovely.
We’ve been the sick house for the last week & a half- It started with the toddler coming down with a fever and while she’s happy & better now, I’m flopped in bed with a nasty cold. Haven’t worked on any art in over a week, so sad! I plan on dragging myself back in there tomorrow no matter what. (well, as long as the kids are healthy)
We had a long night in the ER with our toddler Thursday night & Friday found us all exhausted and my husband & I getting sick ourselves. BUT I had two bright & shiny spots arrive in my inbox on Friday!! small excepts of each message below 🙂
Our administrative has informed me of your email stating you are unable to pick up “Impending”.
I apologize, but you should have been notified that it sold.”
Fortunately I emailed to say that I would not be able to make the drive to Houston on Saturday due to illness. That’s when I received both a phone message & the above email! I think it will seem real when the check arrives in the mail. For the moment I am just so so so glad I don’t need to pack up my toddler again & make the 6hr round trip to Houston. Huge sigh of relief.
The second email was:
Your work had been selected for exhibition in the Providence Art Club All Media Juried Exhibition.
From almost 500 submissions, only 54 artists were chosen by exhibition juror Kristen Carbone.”
So excited to be included in another show! Made sure to drag my butt out of bed to drop off “a cold wind is blowing…” at the shop for framing. Have to get it to the gallery in Rhode Island by next week- quick turnaround!
Day three of being home with a sick toddler- I’ve read a million little books and watched about every cute kids movie under the sun- including The Wizard of Oz, which I am watching right now while typing this blog post.
One the questions I remember most about interacting with graduate students while working towards my degree was “why painting/video/drawing/sculpture(etc…)?” With an enormous range of materials at our fingertips- how does the medium we choose serve the work we are making? While sewing for me was a natural progression from craft into art with a new baby, the longer I work in this medium, the more I ponder this question. I have been jotting down little notes as I’ve been thinking and here is what I have thought so far that feels “right” about working in the way I have been:
“Sewing feels like an integral part of my work- part of it is the “feel” of the thread, the texture it brings to a line and how the paper changes as I sew into it. But is is also about the concept of sewing. Sewing gives me the language to connect with, embrace & re-verbalize domesticity in a non-satirical way. It is intimately about the role that I’m currently immersed in at this point in my life. It is a way to connect with the women in my family history… & billions of women over the course of human history”.
That’s it in a nutshell. Though I think this will be a three part series briefly elaborating on each aspect of the above statement- When I’m not multitasking with a sick little. (I’ll be completely honest- after 2 weeks of teething hell & now three homebound days of whiney/clingy sick toddler while watching mostly Disney/Pixar movies… I kind of want to stab my eyeballs. Not the best mental state for long posts. :))