[An Artist Not Making Art]
An artist not making art is chewing a death.
An artist not making art is a rusty knife.
An artist not making art is a starving city.
An artist not making art is a collapsing ceiling.
An artist not making art is a gulping loneliness.
An artist not making art is a wounded ocean.
An artist not making art is an empty gaze.
An artist not making art is a withering bloodroot.
An artist not making art is a desperate weapon.
An artist not making art is forgetting the way home again. 1
I really thought I was okay in 2020. Four of my five kids came home, some with partners and dogs to a modified shelter-in-place dynamic. I had a very disciplined painting practice that included 7 to 8 hours of studio time, every single day. We had fun making dinner, taking hikes, playing board games in the evening. We revamped the garden together and grew closer. I feel guilty to say it because this was not everyone’s experience, but I treasure that time because it was an opportunity to be with my near-grown kids that I otherwise would have never experienced. We had a very privileged “go” through the beginning of the pandemic: my kids had us as a resource and most of us could work from our home, virtually. None were first responders or front-line employees, the true heroes of this pandemic.
And then came 2021, as it unfolded, I realized things weren’t quite as untouched as I thought. Cracks in relationships appeared- what had kept friendship growing under the usual circumstances of Saturday night dinners, art viewing lunches, and Liberty Park picnics thinned by politics, vaccination status, and fear. Routines established during the COVID lockdown began to unravel. All I wanted to do was physically hug my dear friends and relatives- living far-flung across the US- painting routine " be damned."
I feel like I’ve spent the latter part of 2021 scrambling back to my center. Getting baby girl established in her new high school, helping my other child undo the damage created from 2 semesters of virtual college classes, reconnecting with friends regardless of opinion about COVID, all while in a sideways sleeting shame storm over my disrupted painting practice. 2021 was a year of trying to find normal, trying to climb out of the shame of not creating a massive body of work. Now here we are in 2022, another wave, another round of cancellations, more disruption.
I recently found the poem above by Noor Unnahar and have taken refuge in it. I hope it will be as helpful to you as it is to me, whether you are a painter, a teacher, a chef, a nurse, or a coder. Creating is the path home, back to center.
I left my refuge to repair and connect and now it is simply time to return. Begin again, remember my original place. Leave the shame story along the side of the road. Simply paint, no story.
In short, as I finish my paintings, I’ll post them on the website. I hope you’ll walk with me as each of us remember our way home.
Sending blessing for the new year,
1 Unnahar, Noor. New Names for Lost Things. Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2021.