Ok, so enough w/the semi-enigmatic FB posts (more inarticulate than enigmatic). In as brief as I can manage—or mangle, as spellcheck suggests: my contract working as Operations Manager for the UCSF Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment came to an end in August, i.e., I have left the “dreaded day-job.”
As a vortex of workplace shenanigans gathered force, the artist in me stepped up and suggested that this might be an opportunity to rearrange my priorities. To move art-making way up on that list, an affordable place to live and work—where there is artistic affinity and un poco de inspiración—and where I can be part of a community, is needed. To make that possible, the bear-trap that is a Bay Area rent has to go. So I’m in the process of making that happen.
The timing is a bit stressful (inelegant understatement), as I hadn’t expected to be doing this for a couple of years. But this all made me step back and acknowledge that the fantasy that I will work just a few more hours per week in order to make a well-funded, sensible change…then a few more months, then a few more years…really is a fantasy. My rent raises with metronomic regularity, while my wages do not.
So, while I’m a bit freaked out—I have an intimidating amount of stuff to do in the next two weeks (having slogged through an intimidating amount of stuff already over the previous two weeks)—my goal for the next six months/year is to give myself a focus on art-making. This time, in my own country. Call it Art 2.0: Stateside. I have no illusions: for a number of reasons, it’s a whole other beast here. The qualities of life that gave me permission to take the leap I took in Oaxaca are not ones that translate easily into capitalist/workaholic America. I keep coming back to a grateful letter Charles Bukowski wrote to a publisher who offered him a monthly salary to write so that he could cease working a day-job, which he described as “a constant and pointless shuttling between the office and the television set.”
America is all about work and things; and keeping our population enslaved to their work and things…me no less than anyone else. But if there’s anything I’ve learned since my painter awakening in Mexico, it’s that I don’t come to art in ways that have meaning to established circles in America—so I have to invent my own methods anyway. This decade+ has taught me what I need to be productive. I want to act on that, before the arthritis and the Alzheimer’s and the failing eyesight take me to a place, on the downward slope of this expedition, where I am unable to act.
Unemployment insurance was made for exactly this: to bridge the gap while you find new work. So that’s what I’m going to do. I will be looking for a place to live and work that is, shall we say, financially manageable for non-millionaires. Where I can rub shoulders with other productive artists. And where community of some kind is a factor—a colony, a neighborhood—I’m not much for communal arrangements, but that said, I’ve pretty well exhausted the loner thing. I’d imagine that the balance I am looking for will include a day job—I actually like the perspective offered by something outside of art. And I f*ing love the ability to pay my bills. But I just can’t do the uber-stressful, 24/7 nonprofit organization-building for uncompetitive pay thing any longer—not in the most expensive economy in the country, anyway.
I hope to find a way to do in the US what I did in Oaxaca: paint, grow, interact with other art and artists, study; with a modest, but not nail-bitingly modest, lifestyle. I would love to studio-assist—an artist, designer, videographer, stage-crafter—anything hands-on, where I get to watch and do and learn. We are nothing if not the land of beloved cheap (or, especially in the arts, free) labor, right? I want to finish works in progress—no surprise that all major works I started before the day-job remain unfinished. I want to move forward on audio and video projects for which I haven’t quite found my tech footing. I want to see if I can swing an artist residency. Or maybe cobble together something similar on my own. I want to be in the presence of and/or working alongside artists whose work excites me, as I have had the too-brief opportunity to do at the Seattle CoCA’s 24-hr Art Marathon and in Martina Ayalas’s Coatlicue shows in S.F. and L.A.
To get started, I am going to have to sell a lot of art. I built up quite a bit of debt, constructing this life I am no longer going to be leading. At least not here; not now. So I will need to pay it off. And if I’m really lucky, put together a bit of a cushion for this next thing. It is an important part of my personal code that art always be the thing that helps me take the next step in art. A certain symmetry in an asymmetrical field. So far, it’s served me pretty well—with the added benefit of keeping me grounded in the thing I most believe in.
If anyone has any ideas about how to go about that, or better, wants to volunteer to organize a show/sale/page (does anyone that crazy/with that much free time even exist in the Bay Area??) or assist me in doing same, my overloaded brain would embrace you with gratitude.
If anyone knows of a studio sublet (I’m talking art studio), or an affordable residency, or a great spot where you think I and my art might fit, please let me know—this is the moment when I can actually do something about it. Maybe even a series of somethings.
Aside from the art bit, I have to be out of my apartment by the end of the month. If you have ever seen me move, you would never believe that I am an exceptional manager, known for organizing complex projects from top to bottom w/out dropping a stitch. If you have ever worked with me as a manager, you would never believe how bad I am at moving. It is my stone-cold Achilles heel. The absence of anything/-one else to bump up against, as I sort through my solitary memories and possibilities, seems to set me spinning.
So for my first act of Art 2.0: Stateside, I am really going to try to break my horrible habit of shutting down in the process of moving. I’m going to break out a list of things I could use help with, organize a calendar, and put it in a future post(s) for anyone who cares to get involved. Helping hands and/or sane presences are most welcome.
I will also be eliminating unnecessary stuff, and sans time for a sale, if anyone wants to stop by any time in these final weeks, you’re welcome to take what you’d like. Just gimme a holler to be sure I’m home.
As I did in Oaxaca, I plan to chronicle this thing, whatever it turns out to be. I’ve been writing a lot, as I soul-search to place art, work, love, money, family and community in perspective—so I’ll try to share. I hope very much that you guys will respond. These conversations are precious to me. Unfortunately I don’t have much energy to edit right now, but I’ll try to improve upon that as time goes on.
I’m a little uncomfortable placing such personal stuff on a pubic website—but everyone uses so many different media these days, it seems best to just put it in a place where it can be found, for those who want to find. This blog is followed by, like, two people I think, both close friends. So presumably it’s a blip in the metadata that no one (not even the CIA!) cares about…and thus will be read only by those I know and love. This also provides the option to sign up or not sign up, so you don’t have to be bothered with unwanted emails.
Speaking of which, if you’re still reading: thank you. I send you big love and gratitude. And beg your forgiveness/forbearance for every dropped message, unexpressed thank you/acknowledgment of support in this nutso time. I so appreciate all the love that ushered in my 57th year. Still, I am distracted by unemployment and Covered California and passport logistics, job separation stuff, resume updates—is there anyone who doesn’t abhor the resume update, or is it just me??—and moving arrangements, not to mention the Mold-/Mike-Mobile’s suddenly alarming gear-slippage…and I still haven’t gotten to what comes next.
I am trying to channel my wise friend Marie Christine and embrace that if this is what the universe has given me, then this is exactly where I’m supposed to be. Bless you for being part of “what the universe has given me.” I hope very much you will stay with me for this next chapter. And the next, and the next…