There have been a few of us, out of UW Art School, who haven't been able stop creating on a large scale. You've heard of Laura Hamje, the painter, whose roadway landscapes (most recently her every-piece-sold show of viaduct windshield views) somehow, through their large scale and exterior textures, evoke the interior, unspoken landscape of the soul's eye, the child who questions being and time; or Serrah Russell, whose collage work beguiles in its delicate, evocative simplicity, calling to mind the formative definition of a thought: two discrete units linked, combining to form a third thing– an idea.
It is not a desire, this movement towards creating. It certainly isn't for the money (as I take another bite of canned beans and rice), not really career either, speaking for myself at least, but the throbbing lifeblood urgency of the need. It is a need, this thing, not a desire, nor hobby or interest. It is a goal where the goal is having a goal, where the final act is to be in the middle of a brushstroke, the light and potent space before a whisper; where you can translate your thoughts– your thoughts!– onto paper, wood, celluloid. To step, through being, outside of time. It is a malady of sorts, this need is, that I hope never to cure.
We were teenagers fifteen years ago, these giants and I. Laura sitting over there, we freshmen in Studio Drawing, dabbing sumi ink on newsprint, carefully studying the light on vases and apples. Hauling our portfolios back to campus to finish our assignments late at night. Serrah at critique in Photo Theory, where the silence before a sentence carried as much meaning as the words themselves. I would stay overnight in the color darkroom alone, printing back and forth until the clock didn't exist. We didn't know the shape of the future.
I stood bewildered at one of Serrah's shows some years later. The place was so packed it was difficult to move. What must that feel like, I wondered. To make the summit. I'll never know, I thought, and that's okay. But some years later the same thing would happen at my shows, where people told me they couldn't even make it past the door, but for the enthusiastic bodies. I would complete this film, then that one. There were the press appearances. The front page. The milestone of the twentieth show, then the thirtieth. Images selling at these prices. However..
I don't know why this author reading was the very first event which felt like I had touched the elusive summit.
None of the others carried a sense of relief that sufficiently outweighed their various challenges. I distract myself during these things with trying to do a good job. I know how fickle this type of success is, how much less it means than... Well, you know. What we already have, and can so easily lose.
But I offer the words above in order to contextualize the next post. I write in an effort to suggest the whirl of thoughts I felt while sitting up there, on stage. I write this for the people who've asked me what it felt like, and I write it for myself because I have a habit of shutting out praise, deflecting compliments, resisting the actual in moments of extreme goodness directed at me. I do this to protect myself from being dependent on it, believing it in unhealthy ways (wouldn't you do the same?), but I do it too much. I've gotten so good at shutting out personal appreciation gifted to me. How do you think I stay humble, with all these accolades? Sane? But: the price is real. I cannot feel the joy I should be feeling at events like this. It always feels like it's happening to someone else.
Tonight was the first time I made a real effort to breathe.
Click here for Part three!
Above photo by Brittany Hammer.