The Struggle Bus (Or the post in which I basically complain about everything)

I am so completely on the struggle bus lately.  My anxiety has never been so high, physically, my body is a disaster, and there is just not enough time for anything.

I’m really having a hard time finding my footing lately.  So many hormones post birth, so many trials and tribulations attempting to breastfeed my little dude, lack of any forward progress (much less any significant amount of time spent) on my artistic career, being diagnosed with not one, but two auto-immune conditions (Rheumatoid arthritis, which was expected but perhaps not so young, and Lupus, which came the fuck out of left field), zero physical activity, an exhausting commute schedule, and a number of large changes pending at work…  I don’t know how to balance it all out much less make time for myself.

And then a day like today happens, and I feel like I’m literally going to fall to pieces if anything else hits me.  What happened today?  Well, I guess nothing really… Except it kind of did, because it was more of the same and then some.  All those little anxiety building blocks, plus some over the top moments that have just put me on the absolute edge.

To start the day off right, the baby woke up at 330 and kind of nursed for like 30 minutes, but neither of us got back to sleep, so finally at 4, I got up with him.  He wanted to cuddle, but only if he could wiggle all over the place.  Which was fun, given that in the morning I have a really hard time gripping things and moving in general (Thanks, autoimmune system!).  He screamed all through his diaper change and getting him dressed.  He wiggled and hit all through being rocked and playing.  He fussed all through breakfast, until I gave him orange segments, only then he got pissed when we had to wipe him down because he was covered in sticky orange.  Oh, and then got mad when we had to change his diaper and outfit because he was a pee pants.  So basically (admitting to being a bad mom here), he was on my last nerve this morning when Matthew left to take him to the sitters.  However, at the same time, I understood why he was being difficult… he’s cutting FOUR teeth at once right now.  Four. FOUR.  FUCKING. TEETH.  And comparatively speaking, he’s taking it like a champ.  From what I understand, this could be so much worse.  It’s just that given my health struggles right now, and our commute schedule, loosing an hour of sleep really kind of fucks me up.

Then I went to work, where I spent the morning mostly OK, but in a state of low level anxiety, because I feel like when I’m at work, I should be with the baby, and when I’m with the baby, I should be making art, and when I’m making art… You get the point.  I’ve been anxious a lot lately about my lack of productivity in the studio, but it really kicked into overdrive last week when I went to get my haircut at a new place, and the stylist was like “Oh! You’re an artist?  Give me your instagram, because we’re a gallery too!”  And I was like…. [insert blank stare here].  Because I couldn’t even remember the last time I’d posted my work on instagram, let alone even posted on there.  I also haven’t shown in quite some time.  So that’s awesome.  But at the same time, it’s lit a little bit of a fire under my ass.  Art.  I need to Art.  Especially if I ever want to leave my current job and get a teaching job.  Which I wold very much like to do.  Because I miss teaching.  But that’s a panic attack for another day.

Anyway… I was handling my art/time anxiety OK this morning because my oh-so-amazing partner gave me the night off, (No need to head straight home or to pick up the kid after work! No household chores! No distractions! Perhaps some wine as I sit and work on my own, someplace that isn’t home!) so I had a semi-leisurely evening of arting/writing to look forward to.  Don’t get me wrong.  I was feeling a bit guilty for ditching the kid and the partner, but to be honest, I couldn’t recall the last time I’d had any alone time, much less the last time I had been able to work totally uninterrupted for more than 15 minutes.  Sometimes you just need to be by yourself, with your headphones on, ignoring everything, and drinking anything in reach.

However as I was sitting down to eat my lunch and do my second pump of the day… I spilt the majority of my first pump.  All over myself.  I almost burst into tears right then and there.  To once again back track, since day one of breastfeeding, I’ve had a VERY low milk supply.  We’re thinking now that it’s due to the lupus (because I have exhausted literally every other possibility of an explanation), and for the most part, I’ve made peace with it.  As such, breastfeeding has been really hard.  If I’m lucky, on an extremely good day, I pump an entire 6 ounces of milk.  To put that in perspective, my kid takes anywhere between 30 and 40 ounces of milk a day.  So those 6 ounces are really hard fought.  Every drop counts for me.  So loosing Half… well that just fucking sucks.  It makes me feel even more terrible about the little milk I do make.

As I’m cleaning up THAT mess, an email bings into my work inbox.  Let’s be honest here, most of the emails I get at work are totally pointless and unrelated to me, so I almost didn’t read it before deleting it.  Except that I did, and thank goodness, because this one was actually pertinent.  It was informing me that my insurance premiums for next year would be going up.  Considerably.  Considerably considerably.  Thank goodness I’m health… Oh wait.  That’s right, not only do I have rheumatoid arthritis, I have lupus.  FUCKING LUPUS.  So that’s cool that managing that is going to be even more expensive next year. Yay!

Whilst I’m processing the insurance news and still experiencing wet crotch from the milk spill, my mom calls me.  This is quite unexpected, but I figure it’s going to be some minor detail or bit of info about her upcoming visit over easter.  I almost don’t answer.  But I do.  (When the fuck will I learn?)  My uncle, her brother-in-law, has died.  Like, 30 minutes prior.  I don’t even know what to say.  Because I’m terrible in those types of situations.  Not because I don’t care, but because I actually hurt for those directly impacted, and there’s nothing that I can think of saying that isn’t either a) an empty, meaningless platitude, or b) a tasteless, awkward joke (because that’s how I cope).  So, I just say “Tell Aunt Karen I’m sorry, I’ll talk to you later.”

At this point in my day, I still have like another four hours left of work and I literally cannot calm myself down.  It’s all I can do to keep myself from shooting laser beams out of my eyes at students, and melting them before they can reach me.  I.  Just.  Can’t.  The anxiety has hit fever pitch and I want to cry and scream.  I need to make art, but I also need to take care of people.  I want a drink, but know that I should really just find a therapist instead.  You know,  par for my anxiety course.

Now, to be perfectly honest and upfront, the uncle who passed, was not a particularly close relative.  It had been a number of years since I’d seen him, and I didn’t spend a lot of time with him growing up.  Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that its terrible that some one has died, and that should always be marked with respect.  However I’m quite fond of his son (my cousin), and I keep up with him on Facebook.  And I know he’s been on the struggle bus lately, perhaps just as hard, if not harder than I have been.  So my upset at the passing of my uncle has more to do with my concern for my cousin and having a great deal of empathy for his current situation.  And that puts my current struggle bus experience into perspective.  It doesn’t lessen it, but it helps me remember, we’ve all got our shit, and we will all survive.  So yeah.

That was my day… How was yours?

 

 

 

 

 

#humanity

I initially wrote this yesterday (July 6th), with the intent of posting it after I got home from work, but life got in the way and I figured it could wait until this morning.  Then I woke up to the news that another man had been shot, and it literally changes nothing about what I wrote.  Sickly it applies whether I am reacting to Tuesday’s violence, or to the violence that took place yesterday night.  What the actual fuck…

To all my friends who must deal with the very real possibility of police violence or systemic oppression, for whatever reason, I stand in awe of your strength and resilience, and appreciate everything you’ve ever taught or shared with me. I’m just a white girl from the suburbs who wants to help make the world a better place, so keep it coming. ❤


I’m sitting in the office of my relatively cushy job at a private college.  A liberal arts college.  I work with art and photography students.  The most stressful part of my job is dealing with entitled, whiney students, or the occasional high maintenance faculty member.  I have a high school diploma and two college degrees. Both in the visual arts.  I grew up in Ohio, in a middle class family with both of my parents present.  We had a split level ranch house, multiple cars, and a dog.  I had my own bike, and for at least junior high and high school, my own room.  I got to participate in extra-curricular activities, my dad took us to the library, we occasionally went on vacations.

I currently live in a predominately black and latinx neighborhood in Chicago (one of America’s most segregated cities, by the way).  I chose to live in this neighborhood.  I love living there.  But then again,  I do not have to fear walking past a police cruiser while wearing a hoodie, or seeing police walking toward me on my street as I head home from the train at night.  Because it is far more likely that they will smile and say hello to me, than immediately assume me to be any kind of problem or threat.  In fact, the sad truth is that if I were to initiate a violent altercation with a black individual in my neighborhood, and the police were to arrive, it’s odds on that the police would jump in and attempt to protect me, over my victim.  Because I am white.

The color of my skin has never been a danger or barrier to me in my entire life…

I am a cis-gendered woman in a committed relationship with a lovely gentleman, also from a middle-class, white, suburban background.  I have never had to struggle with my identity in that respect.  Nor have I ever had to face ignorance or intolerance from those around me because I didn’t fit into the traditional gender binary or because I love someone whose sex is the same as my own.  I will never be questioned about my ability to parent my impending child simply because it would have two mothers or two fathers, as opposed to the “normal” conception, one of each.  I will never have to fight to even have the right to conceive or adopt a child…

My life, while occasionally “a struggle” or “difficult”, has been no harder than the average person’s.  I might even argue it’s been easier.  I say all of this not to brag, but to acknowledge the advantages and privilege in which my life functions.  Simply through luck of the draw I have found myself a beneficiary of all things white, suburban, middle class, and hetero.   Oh, and we might as well throw western in there too.  Because my family certainly didn’t originate from anywhere but Europe, and has been in the states for several generations now.  Except the Irish part… They didn’t like it here and went back to Ireland.  I didn’t choose to be these things, but they are part of my identity.  I do not allow all of those facts to blind me however.  I try very hard to look at the world critically, to learn and open myself up to that which I am not.  I want to experience and appreciate the diversity that exists in this world.

So, I’m sitting here in my office, reading the news of the day.  Another black man has been shot by two police officers.  Once again, it has happened under some very violent and questionable circumstances.  Yet another ignorant/hateful/racist/unnecessarily violent act has been perpetrated upon a fellow citizen.  And I want to weep.  My inner 3 year old wants to stomp her foot and scream about how unfair this all is.  She just wants people to see one another as people and go play in the sand box.  She doesn’t understand why everyone can’t be nice to one another.  My actual 32 year old self feels shattered into a million pieces as I think about all of my friends of color and all of my friends in the LGBTQ+ community, because I know that in the here and now, they will never be able to feel safe.  They will always fear for themselves and their loved ones, because someone may decide to hurt them based on a stupid, superficial reason, like the color of their skin, or who they just kissed, or perhaps even the god in which they believe.  And more than likely the perpetrator will get away with it.  I want to offer words of comfort and support, not only my friends, but the world at large.  But I feel so incapable, and so, so unqualified to do so.  Mind you, my feelings on this are nothing compared to theirs.  Absolutely nothing.

I feel so much rage and disbelief, and I want to force people to see things the way I do.  To forcefully rip out their ignorant and hurtful opinions and behaviors, to replace them with kindness and acceptance.  How is it that these things are still happening?!  How have we not learned our lessons yet?  More over, I cannot wrap my mind around the idea that there are still people out there defending the actions of the police, while demonizing any person of color that is shot by the police.  That they will dig up,  produce, or misinterpret statistics in order to demonstrate how many more whites suffer from violent deaths at the hands of people of color or the police, or how its actually more common for black men to get shot because its more common for them to perform a crime.  That there are still people who straight up believe that anyone who isn’t white is less.  I cannot comprehend that there are people out there barging into women’s restrooms and attacking women (based entirely upon they way they are dressed, or manner in which their hair is styled), assuming they are transgendered and using the “wrong” restroom, then claiming they are protecting children and other women in said bathrooms from attack.  That these people refuse to acknowledge the fact that it is far more likely for transgendered individuals to be attacked while going to the bathroom than for them to be the attacker.  It’s disgusting to me that these people shout white pride or want a straight pride month.  I hate that it’s those people who co-opt the #blacklivesmatter, #queerlivesmatter, or #muslimlivesmatter hashtags and try to say #alllivesmatter.  (Let’s just leave aside the often empty gestures of social media activism because I just don’t have the emotional energy right now to enter into that conversation.)

Yes.  All lives do matter, and I wish the hashtag could just be #humanity.  But.  But the reason we need those specific movements, and to say those specific words, the reason we need to point out that they matter is because all lives DO NOT yet matter.  In actual, active practice, these lives mean so much less to white America.  The fact of it is that POCs, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and really ANY minority in this country, are still discriminated against on a regular basis.  They still have to hear politicians talk about how they’re  “thugs” or “rapists,” or that they’re “stealing our jobs.”  They’re accused of being terrorists just because they have a vaguely Islamic sounding name or look to them. They have laws being foisted upon them forcing them to use the inappropriate bathroom, or telling them who they may or may not marry. These lives cannot walk out on the street, or see a police officer without looking back over their shoulder, paranoid that they may be attacked or “restrained” for no damn good reason.

Do I know exactly what happened in any of the situations that have been plastered across the headlines in the last several years?  Was I there?  Can I speak from experience?  No, no, and no.  But that shouldn’t matter.  As a human being, all I know, and all I see, is that people are being hurt, people are dying, people are terrified, horrified, saddened…  And while none of this directly impacts me in my day to day life, and I have the luxury of choosing to step away or ignore it, I cannot, because it MUST stop.  All of this violence, all of this hate, it may not be directed at me, but I feel it with every headline, and I witness the pain it brings others.  To the best of my abilities, I empathize with these communities and seek to effect change so that it may stop, so that my fellow humans can stop hurting, stop fearing.  That is my job as a fellow human, is it not?  It should make us all want to effect change.  It should make us question what we understand to be “normal” and “right.”  It should make us challenge the status quo of police behavior or religious practices… of our own set of beliefs.  It should make us more cognizant of the micro- aggressions that we ourselves perpetuate, or witness happening around us.  If we truly want all lives to matter, then seeing this hurt, despair, and pain, should make us all step up and be advocates for anyone who is systematically discriminated against.  We should, actively, in practice, make all lives matter, not passively stand by and shake our heads at how sad these events are, then change our Facebook profile pics to show our “solidarity” for, or send our prayers to, victims of this oppression.  Instead of hashtags and empty gestures, we need to exemplify our humanity and supposed belief in equality through our daily actions and words.

I don’t know that I have any profound suggestions for helping these changes occur.  Like I said before I feel very unqualified and unequipped to even offer comfort and support, however I feel that I cannot just stand on the sidelines and hope that things will eventually improve.  I can listen and hear what the individuals in these communities have to say about their own circumstances and experiences.  They are, after all the experts on their lives and deserve to be heard and respected, not talked over or dismissed.  I can offer my assistance within these communities, in a manner that they deem fit and appropriate.  I am not there to be a savior, but to be an ally, advocate, accomplice, and friend.  I should be there assisting them to fulfill their needs, not my own.  I can stand up to those in my daily sphere who are perpetuating racist/homophobic/intolerant/ignorant/privileged behaviors and mindsets.  Respectfully, I can challenge and ask them to reconsider their actions.  Am I an expert on all things race/sex/gender/religion/etc related?  Fuck no, but at least I can say “Hey, don’t use that racial slur!” or “No, I’m sorry that statement you just made is factually inaccurate, please do not continue to repeat it.” or, “You know, what you just said to me was incredibly sexist because…” or even “If you are going to say offensive, ignorant, or insulting things around me, then I would prefer not to interact with you anymore.”   I can challenge my own daily assumptions and unconscious biases or accept challenges, with out hostility, from others that force me out of my comfort zone and beg me to question those biases or assumptions.

I don’t know if any of these things are enough, or if they carry any weight or meaning… But at very least, they are things that everyone can implement in their daily lives in order to help promote tolerance and empathy.

My partner and I are about to become parents.  It makes me so sick that this hatred, ignorance, and discrimination are things that my child will have no choice but to inherit from the world.  It also makes me sick, that just because my kid is going to be the offspring of two fairly well educated white people, it will experience a certain amount of privilege over, and possibly at the expense of, many many others just as deserving (or far more deserving).  Beyond the 3 year old assessment of “not fair,” that privilege and many people’s resultant behavior, simply isn’t right.  It isn’t just. It isn’t moral.  And while I would gladly give up my privilege, or my kid’s privilege just so that one more marginalized individual wouldn’t have to face systemic discrimination, I know that’s not how it works.  I know that desire is silly and naive.  Instead, one last thing I can hope to do, is to make my kid aware of the privilege they have, instill social awareness, and a desire for justice.

 

 

 

If it’s inaccessible to the poor it’s neither radical nor revolutionary.

 

Bear with me, this is going to be rambling and probably pointless.

I’m not exactly an avid Facebooker.  I tend to use it more as a news conduit and to keep tabs on/in communication with friends and family I don’t get to see on a regular basis.  I find the obnoxious over-sharing and stupid meme trading really annoying and totally overstimulating.  Especially given that people tend to share things with out checking it’s validity or ensuring it comes from a trusted source.  It’s just not my style.  Anyway, this afternoon I happened to see something that a former colleague from grad school had “reacted” to (why I see their reactions, I have no idea), which ironically ties into something my last post was talking about, which I had totally forgotten I’d even written.  The reaction was to an image of a banner that simply read:

“If it’s inaccessible to the poor it’s neither radical nor revolutionary.”

Now, I have no idea where this image originated, or the context in which it was shared and then reacted to on Facebook.  But it hit a nerve for me.  I’ve been thinking about privilege and access a lot lately, it’s difficult not to.  From watching the current presidential race unfold, to seeing the effects of the current economy on those who were not born with a silver spoon in their mouth, to the absurd and disturbing fight over transgender rights and sexuality… The (mainly rich, white) privileged seem to be desperately grasping for any control or supremacy they can maintain, and society as a whole seems to be trying to stand up against it and call that privilege into question.  It also comes up in my personal life as I consider things like paying for childcare, the ability to be a stay-at-home parent, and as it relates to my own artistic practice…

As I mentioned in my previous post, the ability to access and view art comes is made possible by a certain amount of privilege.  Fuck man, just making art can be a bit of a privilege (for which I realize, many artists fight).  And that upsets me.  I believe that artists should work to impact the world around them and to create experiences for their viewers.  For their art to be seen and shared.  Instead, I think that often times we work toward finding a place in a gallery’s stable of artists where our work can be shown, bought, collected, but those who have the money and access to go to galleries/museums/etc.  Why are we making work if it’s not going to be accessible to the entire population?  Why should our work only be available to a privileged few?  Why do we continue to work within and perpetuate this stupid, outdated paradigm?  Is it really the money?  Or perhaps the potential for fame?   Personally, I don’t want to make art that everyone can’t access, I could care less about actually making money off of my art (I have literally only ever sold a single print in my entire career thus far), and I hate attending my own openings because of social anxiety and introversion.  These are sincerely things that I don’t understand, and ask from a place of curiosity, with a desire for discussion on the matter.

I struggle, though, with ways of getting my art “out there” and “building my resume”, so that one day in the semi-near future, when it comes time to go on the job market again, I can show I have been pursuing my practice and I would be a worthwhile addition to a faculty somewhere.  I struggle with the knowledge that the vast majority of my work is not well suited for many galleries, museums, or art centers, and try to compensate by creating small bodies of work that can fit in those confines.  For instance, I’ve spent the last few months working on a series of photographic images that are totally abstract and inoffensive visually.  The only context or content is provided by what I say about them in an artist statement.  Just so that I might get another line on my resume.  And for every two or three applications I send out using that body of work, I send out another two or three of my other, more performative or conceptual work.  Guess which applications are more likely to receive acceptance?  What am I even supposed to do with that?  In my mind, it’s ultimately an empty gesture because I’m making something I don’t fully feel invested in and so exhibiting it is pointless, and that’s on top of the fact I know perfectly well that I’m producing work that will only be available for viewing by those privileged enough to visit said gallery/museum/center.

Then I think about when I do performance or video work out in public, leaving behind the context of the art work or the white cube.  Sure there are individuals out there who will appreciate it as art, smiling as they walk by, or nodding and saying “Right on” when they can relate.  But there are also many people who will be completely turned off by it, because they cannot relate to where I come from, to my privilege as a college educated visual artist, a cog in the wheel of academia, as a white woman from the upper middle class suburbs.  I can pull source material from Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things To Me because I think her writing is beautiful and witty and valuable all I want, but again it becomes an empty gesture if no one understands the reference, is aware of Solnit’s work, or makes the connections I’m trying to facilitate about gender and society.  It’s not everyone who has time to even acknowledge that gender inequality still exists in a major way, let alone contemplate the impact that has on society at large, and their personal lives in particular.

Even my contention that having art online makes it readily available to any one who wishes to view it is still premised on the privileges of having both access to a computer and access to the internet.  Despite the fact that I often felt at times that I was one of the last people in the world to have internet connected in my own home, that is categorically untrue.  And I have had the benefit of having regular access to some sort of computer nearly my entire life.  This is not the case for everyone.

So then where does that leave me?  I can be as radical  or alternative in my practice as I want, but does it mean anything if it’s inaccessible to the majority of the population, the very audience I want for my work?  Is it possible to create those experiences and effect that change I so desire if privilege blocks the audience?

Regardless of the answers to my own personal struggles here, I think its worthwhile to keep this idea of access and privilege in mind.  You can decry the evils of vaccinations and feel like you are challenging the status quo and big pharma and helping to open society’s eyes to the dangers of vaccines all you want.  But that view is not so revolutionary outside of your own context of the privilege to turn down what others would give anything to provide their children with.  You can rage against the machine about GMOs and organic foods and how that’s all we should eat, but you don’t live in a food desert where all you can find are sodas and pre-packaged foods at the corner 7-11.  You can  bitch about Uber surge pricing ’til the cows come home, but you still have a smart phone and ultimately the means to get around while there are others who must beg rides from friends and family or walk, all relying on increasingly nonexistent pay phones, phone calls “borrowed” from who ever is around, or even a pay-as-you-go flip phone…  We just all need to stop for a moment and put ourselves in someone else’s shoes in order to consider the fact that reality exists outside of our own little bubbles.

I don’t know what my point here is or that I’ve actually said anything of substance, but yeah… Privilege and access.

 

A Rant (In Two Parts)

Rant:  Part I (In Which I Think Deep Thoughts About Art, Art Ownership, and the Institution, Then Get Sidetracked)

I’ve been reading a book called Ways of Looking:  How to Experience Contemporary Art by Ossian Ward.  It is a bit of a beginner’s guide to looking at contemporary art, which I picked up with the idea that  it might be useful for teaching younger kids or non-art folk about contemporary art.  Yes.  I am that nerd that thinks about pedagogy and teaching ALL the time.  It’s a pretty basic read, but interesting.  Anyway, it dredged up a few thoughts that have been kicking around in my head for awhile and got me thinking about them again.

urs-fisher03
Urs Fischer, You, 2007 Not my image! http://thefunambulist.net/

The premise of this book, is that it breaks down contemporary art into “Art as” sections to be decoded using the author’s TABULA Rasa formula (Time, Association, Background, Understand, Look again, Assessment).  These “Art as” sections include:  Art as Entertainment, Art as Joke, Art as Message, etc.  The last two chapters are Art as Spectacle and Art as Meditation, which I was reading on the train on my way into work this morning.   Toward the end of the Art as Spectacle chapter the author discusses Urs Fischer’s You, and writes:

“Resembling a battlefield or a construction pit rather than an exhibition, Fischer’s destructive, anti-artistic statement was not only an assault on the senses—involving as it did a precipitous 8-foot drop and the risk of serious injury—but it was also an attack on the very structures that support and validate art itself (it was nevertheless sold to a foundation for excavation at a later date at some other location).

At which point I literally wanted to stand up on the train and flip a table.  It just seems so ridiculous to me that this piece was bought by a foundation to be moved from it’s context, making it even less accessible. It actually made me angry. Because let’s face it, there is a certain amount of privilege involved in being able to visit (access) a museum, gallery, foundation, or other arts institution.  But also, I really HATE the idea of ownership when it comes to art (especially when it comes to something so ephemeral and site-specific).  I want everyone to have access to art all the time.  I don’t think you should have to pay to see something that is culturally relevant, or interesting, or thought provoking, or just plain fucking beautiful (although I could personally not care less about that particular criterion). And I think art objects are stupid.  It upsets me that these are things which artists have poured themselves into, and they are hoarded away by private collectors or museums, only to see the light of day occasionally.  Art isn’t about just looking/seeing.  But I’ll get to that rant in a second.

The author continues his bit about You, referencing the writings of Robert Smithson (of Spiral Jetty fame).  Smithson was a leading figure in moving art outside of the gallery, and helped to develop the Land Art movement of the 70’s.  At one point he wrote that museums are just graveyards above ground.  And, regardless of the context in which Smithson said/wrote that, or the context in which Ward is theoretically linking it to You, I really am starting to believe it’s true in a very literal sense.  Museums are places that art goes to die.  Art no longer exists as it was originally envisioned once it’s consigned to a collection, where it is restored, or stored, or academicized.  It becomes part of a hushed atmosphere, in which you are supposed to take everything very seriously, study the beauty of the “masters” (which, fuck that noise), and learn something.  These randomly selected objects are placed onto white walls and white pedestals to be admired and revered (from a distance), because someone employed by the museum said that they should be.  Aside from the usual rhetoric over who gets to decide what is art, what isn’t, and what should be displayed/preserved, it’s a stupid, stupid system.  And sure, there are museums, or exhibitions out there that challenge this status quo, but not enough.  The majority of them do not.  The majority of them are the white cube-didactic-no-touching model.

This makes me think of the Futurist Manifesto (because really, it’s never far from my mind), and the Futurist’s desire to destroy all museums/libraries/academies etc, because they viewed them as antiquated and therefore an impediment to the progress of the future. Sometimes, I think they weren’t far from wrong (aside from their somewhat blatant misogyny and general delight at war).  We have created these repositories of things that we are told to revere.  I can easily question and challenge it because I have the theoretical knowledge and art back ground, but the average person does not.  They take it to heart.  We cling onto these things, as if they truly are the end all and be all of beauty, or whatever the hell it is that we are looking for in art.  We uphold the past, and scorn the contemporary (Thats why books like Ways of Looking are written…).  It’s almost like we want to hold ourselves back.

My ponderings on art ownership, objects, and destroying museums also started me thinking about the other forms of art that we accumulate and store.  For instance, why am I OK with collecting outrageous numbers of books, of which many are works of fiction, and therefore art?  I LOVE books.  I learn things from them, I escape every day life with them, they are magical objects to me, and are tied into happy childhood memories.  But still, they are art.  So why can I support ownership of those and not works of visual art?  Is there any difference?  Perhaps it bothers me less because there are often thousands, if not millions of the same copy of my book floating around?  Because anyone can go to the library, find that book, and read it for free (Unrestricted access)?  And libraries are depositories of ALL books, not just some.  I realize not every library will have every book, but they don’t actively seek to curate their patron’s visit by limiting their selection, to say the 200s (Religion) in the Dewy Decimal System.  Or perhaps they do, and I am just unawares.

And what about music?  I’ve never been one to obsessively collect albums.  I’m perfectly content to turn on Spotify/Pandora/insert-other-internet-radio-here and listen.  I don’t need to own it.  But there are some who make it a priority in their lives.  And in some weird, conceptual way I find it more acceptable to collect that form of art.  Again, perhaps it’s because theoretically anyone has access to this art form, and there are millions of copies laying around.  Perhaps because someone else could then learn that piece of music and play it for themselves (or others), whether it be in a replication of the original, or in a new interpretation.  Its tough.  And I’m not sure I can justify my ability to accept owning those art forms but not others… Maybe I just need to give up my book collection.  *insert wide eyed emoji here*

Rant:  Part 2 (In Which I Get Back on Track, and Rage at the Consumption of Art)

 

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I don’t think I really need to caption this very obvious wealth of information.

 

The other side of the issue of owning art and locking it away, is that we also treat it like a commodity to be consumed.  We pack large rooms and entire buildings with vast collections of “precious” art objects for people to pay to see.  Often times these collections are so enormous, it could take you days if not weeks to view just what was on display.  For instance, according to CNN, it would take you SIXTY-FOUR DAYS to see everything in the Louvre if you only looked at everything for SIXTY SECONDS.  Let that sink in for a minute.  Sixty-four entire days, looking at roughly 35,000 works of art for exactly sixty seconds each.  Forget actually studying, appreciating, or processing a work.  And that is only what they have on display at any given time.  Their entire permanent collection is around 460,000 objects (You do the math on that one).  So it’s no wonder that with museums like MOMA in New York charging upwards of $25 or more for an individual admission to just the permanent collection, people are going to want to get their money’s worth.  They are going to rush through, trying to take in as much as possible (which is the  worst possible way to view art), making it  into a sort of scavenger hunt to find the most famous, or popular works of art.  All so that they don’t feel gypped, so that they can say they saw the Mona Lisa, and of course, so that they can snap a selfie.  What. The. Fuck. World?  It’s so angering.

Art is not meant to be consumed like that.  It’s meant to be experienced.  It’s meant to leave us thinking, in awe, or some how impacted.  The final chapter of Ward’s book is Art as Meditation, which address works of art that require time for reflection and processing.  He writes that some artworks need contemplation and a sort of extended digestion.  I would argue that this is every work of art, because art can change in meaning over time for you, depending on any number of variables… Circumstances, experiences, knowledge, relationships.  All of which are dynamic, and subject to change in and of themselves.  Ward continues this line of thought, saying:

These shifts in perception or changes of heart require time.  They need time to reveal themselves, to create an atmosphere, to warp the here and now, and –maybe– to formulate a new universe… This kind of contemplative situation, or ‘Art as Meditation,’ as I’ve called it, is not about conceptual art, or anything necessarily related to the 1960’s Conceptual art movement (with a capital C).  Nor is it about seeing something that isn’t there or posing more thoughts that can only live in your head.  It relates to the ability to better appreciate or more deeply engage with a work of art without succumbing to the bite-sized nibbles of culture offered elsewhere or having our heads turned this way or that by any number of other tempting distractions.”

These are things I’ve been trying to get at in my own work for a few years now.  I want my audience/participants/viewers to have an experience rather than simply look/see/consume what I have to share.  I want their lives to be impacted, for them to think about what they saw for years to come, and for that experience of the work to evolve as they themselves change and grow.  Otherwise, what was the point of making the work in the first place?  Sure, it fulfilled a selfish need of my own to create and express myself, but it doesn’t mean anything until someone else enters into the picture.  Otherwise, why look at art at all?  If you’re only going to spend sixty seconds staring at it, only to move on to the next piece immediately, and instantly forget what you saw just moments before.  Everything then becomes a blur, and nothing sticks.  Nothing makes an impression.  And I’ll have done all this hard work for nothing…

Spacey & Dreamy

I’ve been feeling incredibly spacey and dreamy as of late.  It’s been an odd sensation, because there just hasn’t been a time or a reason in my life to be that in the last few years.  I’ve been focused and intent on all things, and there was no space for being slow, or day dreaming.

I’m not sure if this is because I’m tired, I’m smitten, or because I’m still sort of in shock about being in Chicago and being so damn happy.  (I mean really, it’s disgusting how content and happy I am with life right now.)  Or perhaps a combination of all of those things.  I’m still having a rough time adjusting to my “new” schedule… You’d think after almost two months I’d be in the swing of things, but I am not!  Part of it, I think is the constant stimulus and need for processing.  I’m nearly always surrounded by people, whether it’s students at work, or randos on the train home.  But there are always people, there is always noise, there is always SOMETHING vying for my attention.  And for me, that’s a lot.  I get easily overwhelmed by sensory input.  In fact, the only time I am ever alone anymore, is when I’m at home!  (I am increasingly happy about my decision to live by myself for this reason alone.)  Anyway, all of that is exhausting to me, and takes it’s toll physically and mentally.  I also have not allowed myself a moment of down time.  I get up in the morning and go, go, go all day.  My time on the train is spent reading, I work straight through my lunch (because I have no other option right now), I go straight to the gym after work (while reading on the train again!), then I come home and eat dinner while studioing it up.  I didn’t even realized I was doing that to myself until just the other day, when I was like… “Well no wonder you’re burned out by the time you get into the studio at night!”  So I’ve started to allow myself to watch a bit of TV or something equally inane while I eat dinner and decompress from my 12 hour day.  I definitely need that, and so far it seems to be helping.  Even though it cuts in to studio time, I think it evens itself out in the long run.  I’m better able to focus, and am more productive in, say the two hours I have after I eat dinner and watch PowerPuff girls for 45 minutes.  Where as I used to walk in my front door, drop my things in the studio and fire up my computer while I went and warmed up dinner, then ate and tried to work simultaneously.  I would always get distracted, or need to get up and get water, or whatever… So even though I may have gotten an extra hour or two in the studio that way, I wasn’t actually accomplishing anything. And while I’ve been maintaining my typical Sunday schedule of grocery shopping, cooking, chores, and laundry, Friday nights and Saturdays have increasingly been given over to a wonderful gent, with whom I’m quite smitten. So while that is technically down time or time off from the grind of work/career and responsibilities, our time together is exhausting in it’s own way (in the best of ways, of course).

Basically there just need to be more hours in the day, and I need to up my caffeine intake.

Seriously though, I’ve always prided myself on my ability to time manage and prioritize, and I’m starting to feel as though I’m not doing so well at those things right now, despite the fact that nearly every minute of my time is planned and accounted for.  My anxiety about not spending enough time in the studio is growing.  At best I get 2.5 hours in there most nights of the week (well, Monday through Thursday).  I get about 1.5 hours in studio related reading done on the train every day.  And occasionally I’ll get 4 or 5 hours on a Friday night, and maybe a few more on a Sunday after my chores are done.  That’s barely 20 hours a week on arting.  I feel like that’s a really low number.  I’m just terrified that my practice is slowly going to wither away as my life is taken up by my job and my other responsibilities and relationships.  That’s my biggest fear right now… :/  Again, though, I have to remind myself that I can’t do everything all at once.  That it is actually OK to do things slowly, and at what ever pace I can manage.  Otherwise the anxiety starts to win out.  It hits me the worst when I have to run errands around town.  Chicago is such a freaking huge city, and I use public transit to get everywhere, and so sometimes it just takes a really fucking long time to get to where you’re going (Not that owning a car would make it any faster though).  Like, planning and executing a trip to Lowes is it’s own special kind of time and energy suck.  It just takes a lot of effort. So there are times where I have to accept the fact that I’ll be on a bus/train for almost three hours just to get to where I’m going and back.  And I feel like that is lost time, because what am I going to do on the train for 90 minutes?!  I could read, but I still feel unproductive!  I  need to recondition my brain to understand that this is how life works in the city, and that I’m not really wasting time, and that everything will be OK… I just need to get better at managing when I go where.  So I’m not just going out to Lowes for one single thing, or just returning library books, but rather I’m putting errands together, doing things on the way, or need to get multiple things in one far-flung location.  It will be ok.

I just have to keep telling myself that.  And maybe make some art about it.

Agh! Those Personal/Professional Boxes Again!

Hi there!  It’s been an age since I’ve posted here.  A totally inexcusable lapse on my part, but I hope you’ll forgive me… This blog had to be placed extremely low on my priorities list in the last 6 months.  So low that it stop existing.  Sorry about that.  I promise I will be a better blogger in the future.  Would it make you feel better if I told you that I’ve been trying to write this post for going on 3 months now?  No?  Well, it was worth a shot…

From here on out however, this blog is going to be much less about studio happenings, and more about the personal side of my artings and life.  Never fear, there will still be studio updates… They’re just going to be taking place over at a blog hosted on my professional website.  While my life does inform my work a great deal, I’m making an effort to separate my personal and professional life as much as possible… You know,  job hunting and such might be hindered by a blog about what an anxiety ridden person I am.  Or potential employers discovering how incompetent I really am…

Of course, a lot of things have happened since the last time I posted about the clock ticking for me and my thesis.  I had to produce both my written thesis and my MFA thesis show, my marriage fell apart and eventually ended, I applied for an obscene number of jobs (and got none of them) I graduated, I moved, I had an accident, I dyed my hair pink again, I attended a SHIT ton of therapy…  Basically all of the things had to be taken care of at the same time when all I really wanted to do was to curl up in the fetal position under the covers and cry… and maybe sleep.  Basically January through May was the most miserable time of my life (second only to my time spent in Erie PA).  But that’s OK.  Shit has to happen.

So here I find myself, with my terminal degree, still in Tallahassee, and no idea of what the future holds for me.  But you know what?  I’m actually really comfortable with that idea.  I’ve spent much of the last several years obsessing over the future, and planning things, and being terrified of what was going to happen.  I’m tired of that.  I just want to enjoy the life that I’ve fought so hard to have, even if it means I’m not exactly where I want to be in my career or personal life.  My new philosophy is:  “Why not?  What’s the worst that could happen?”  Because, let’s be honest, I’ve already survived what I thought would be the worst things in my life.  Let’s fly by the seat of our pants for awhile, shall we?

It’s the intersection of those two things though, personal and professional, that I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about… Because I’m fairly certain that it played a huge role in the destruction of my marriage.  Now, don’t get me wrong, there were a number of other factors that helped bring that relationship down, and I am certainly glad it is over, but, I think that you should learn from your mistakes and walk away a better, stronger person.  So, I think about these things.  A committee member of mine at FSU has this thing about Personal and Professional boxes, and how they never quite sync up.  Either things are going fantastically in one and not the other, or both are kind of mediocre.  In my head, I kind of scoffed at this when he first talked about it in a class… But, I feel like I’ve been in that latter category for the last 6 or so months… My thesis was created at the expense of my divorce, which resulted in some pretty lackluster work, and my life in general was a mess for quite awhile.  As I move forward, I think about these boxes being at odds with one another… Meaning that I can’t have both a successful professional life as well as a successful personal life.

Now, I’m not interested in having a “woe is me” moment here.  I made some decisions, some turned out badly, some are great, others have yet to reveal their consequences.  But, to reel this line of thought back into what I was originally saying; I feel as if my personal and professional desires are often in conflict with one another.  In the context of the relationship with my ex, I wanted to have that marriage, as well as my career… I wanted to start a family, he wanted to focus grad school…  I’m starting to feel there is no way to win.  That, perhaps, we cannot “have it all” as the feminists would say.

As I’ve returned to dating, and have been forced to rethink my plans for the artistic/academic career I want, these things haunt me.  It’s all very convoluted though.  It’s not just that I want a career and a personal life.  It’s that I’m an artist, who very much wants to be in academia.  To put it rather bluntly, there are a fuck-ton of artists with MFAs out there, while there is an inversely disproportionate number of university teaching positions.  This is because becoming a professor is one of the few ways that artists can both be guaranteed a regular paycheck and get various types of support for their artistic research.  Once you get tenure, no one wants to leave that kind of security!  Shit, son.  I want that type of security.

In any event, this means that there are few open positions, and the ones that are available, can have the highest requirements in terms of experience  and knowledge base, and no one will blink an eye or call foul.  With hundreds of people applying for a single position, why not be choosy?!  Most of the photography teaching positions I was gunning for “preferred” anywhere between 3-5 years of teaching experience not including teaching experience accumulated while in graduate school.  This is frustrating, because it basically precludes my applications to a VAST majority of the positions available.

Then, how to get those years of teaching experience so that the search committees don’t just laugh and throw out my applications?  Well, a combination of adjunct positions and visiting professorships (although, most of the visiting/short term gigs seem to require just as much experience as the permanent ones).  If you are unfamiliar with the concept of adjuncting… Basically it means that you are contracted to a university, semester to semester, paid a flat rate for each course you teach, and have no job security, much less benefits or things of that nature.  Both of these options are depressing to me.  One means I scrounge around where ever I’m living, hoping that I can piece together a living through adjuncting and some other type of job.  (Because, come on, who is going to relocate for a job that has no guarantee of being there when you arrive?)  The other equates to me being a nomad for several years (should I be lucky enough to get any of those jobs).

To me, all of this seems to make having a personal life impossible.  If I’m constantly moving around, then how the heck can I build a long term relationship, much less start a family, with out having to ask my partner to sacrifice what they want while I do what I want?  Or, conversely, I could compromise, and stay put some place where there is a possibility of adjunct work, but have no promise of work from semester to semester, much less financial stability.  But then, what happens once I’ve found a full time job and have to move for reals?  It makes me want to give up on the idea of a career in academia.

Then I wonder what I would do, as an artist if I decided not to go into the university system.  I want to teach, I do.  I sincerely enjoy it.  Then maybe I teach high school? (I have, by the way, applied for a certificate of eligibility to do so.)  But teaching high school, you have no support for your artistic career.  You’re not going to get sabbaticals, have the opportunity to apply for research grants, or have access to various facilities needed.  And, from my perspective, you’re not going to get to teach the things you’re most interested in, or work with the level of students you’d like to… But, you’d have a guaranteed paycheck, you don’t have to be nomadic, and you still get to teach… and maybe make art in a spare minute or two at night… If you have some extra cash laying around…

Conversely, I could just say fuck it to my career for a period of time, take a job doing whatever, start a family, and enjoy that aspect of what I want in life, then try in the future to go after the academic career.  This seems like a terrible idea though… Imagine, sitting in an interview, being asked why you got your terminal degree in 2o14, but did nothing with it until many years later.  Something tells me “Oh, I wanted to settle down with my partner and pop out some kids” would probably not be a widely accepted answer.  I also live in terror of doing this and then never actually reclaiming my career.

Anyway… Now I’m just ranting.  Basically, it seems to me that myself and my fellow academically oriented artists are in a bind.  There are not good options.  And that makes me sad.  While I realize that I can make whatever I want happen in my life, the process seems rather grim.  And I think I make this all the more difficult on myself because I don’t want to move anywhere there is a possibility of snow…

 

 

WEBSITE!

Hi.  You guys might have noticed things disappearing around here…  Like my portfolio, or cv, or all the other things that got deleted.  NEVER FEAR!  I’ve finally set up a website, and all of that professional-like stuff is now at courtneyethayer.com.  So you can wander over there at your leisure and check it out.  I’ll still be posting studio updates and all of my random tangent-y goodness over here, but since it’s about time for me to be professional and respectable, I needed to split the blog from the portfolio.  Hopefully you all hang around anyway!

 

 

 

Have you seen my shoedas ?

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WMD_NEW_0100 as Smart Object-1 WMD_NEW_0054 as Smart Object-1 WMD_NEW_0025 as Smart Object-1 WMD_NEW_0105 as Smart Object-1

 

 

Alright. In several places on this blog, I’ve mentioned in passing about my shoes. My stupid shoes. The flipping Converse that I’ve been wearing incessantly since mid-January. I hate them.

Basically these Converse are a durational (Thesis vocab, what?!) piece I started back in January. When I began the project, I had this idea that it was going to be something about being worn down by anxieties and the fear of failure, but the fact that the shoes would be damaged by my wearing of them was not a failure, but rather a success on the part of the shoes in protecting my feet and doing their job. A work about letting oneself get caught up in small trivialities that eventually exhaust you. My intent was to wear them all day, every day (no smart asses, not to bed, and not in the shower… And yes I really did have cohorts ask me that), any time any one might normally wear shoes. I planned to wear them until it was unsafe for me to do so any longer (ie the bottoms completely wore through and I couldn’t wear them while riding my scooter without shredding off the soles of my feet). I planned to photograph them every week, once a week, more as documentation than anything else, and that was as far as my planning ever got. I figured that I would decide on display and what not later on down the line.

So I started the project. Mind you this is out of the ordinary for me to start something without having everything planned out or answered (at least for the time being) a head of time. But I was trying to just “go with it” as they say. Well, whew, what a hot mess that was. I got distracted by the photography aspect, starting thinking that it was a photography project, got a lot of silence and strange looks when I talked about the project in studio visits and reviews. I got very lost along the way.

In any event I’ve been photographing them every week since I first put them on in January. I only missed one week, when I was out of town in Chicago. I’ve watched them deteriorate. I’ve noticed small changes from week to week that one would not normally see in their shoes. I saw the first bit of rubber fall off the heel of my shoe, watched the backs break and the supporting plastic erode away. I’ve been watching the laces slowly unravel and stain, the tread wear away… I’ve been hiking in them, wore them to the beach, went camping in them. I wear them on my scooter, doing yard work, going dancing with my friends. I wear them with completely unlikely outfit combinations (like my black lace cocktail dress)… I’ve witnessed drastic alterations that happened quite literally overnight, like the pink spray paint incident. I have 60 gigabytes of images. SIXTY GIGABYTES. I am hyper-aware of my shoes. And maybe it’s because of this hyper awareness I think about the aims and intents of this project daily, and I’m coming to realize that it’s something other.

 

WMD_WK22_0001 WMD_WK22_0008 WMD_WK22_0018 WMD_WK22_0083 WMD_WK22_0101 WMD_WK22_0149

I will spare you the majority of the drama that ensued around me trying to figure out that my visuals (the photo documentation) didn’t really do much for me, that my initial concept didn’t really make sense, and that I never really did resolve how to display this project in it’s original conception, and my general confusion about art and instead give you my resolution:

In a very loose, round about way, this project is still related to ideas about failure and anxiety. I see it much more as a meditation on the constancy of change and the idea that maintaining the status quo, or rather the inability to do so, is not failure, so much as the way of life. Evidence that one should not fight the inevitability of change, but accept it rather than wearing oneself ragged. Also, if I should ever exhibit this anywhere, it will be just the shoes and a brief statement about the piece. Forget the photos (blasphemy!). Forget making an installation. Forget anything but the point, which is the shoes.

The only problem is that now I’ve figured that out, I’m sort of over the whole thing. I pretty much just want to chuck the project and get on with life (and start wearing other shoes again), but this point in the project, I’m too stubborn to give it up, even though it’s driving me nuts. All this actually having to go to the studio and to photograph something. It’s like I actually make art or something. I think I need to keep going though, until my original stop point of un-safe-ness. And yes, continue photographing them. Gah. I never want to edit all of those RAW files… SIXTY GIGABYTES PEOPLE! And I’ve got more on the way. Sometimes I’m not as smart as I’d like to think…

While I’m pretty certain that this project will never be exhibited, it has been incredibly useful in allowing me to accept my conceptual-ness, and in helping me to see the connections between failure, anxiety, change, and life.

Anyway, I’ve also reflected on several other things in relation to this project. Most boringly of all, consumerism. I’ve worn the same pair of shoes for six months people, with only the notable exceptions of the gym (because my body cannot withstand exercising in support-less Converse), two days when I was in Chicago (due to snow and my extreme dislike of wet/cold feet), and a handful of days where my shoes were just too wet to wear (again, my total hatred of wet/cold feet). And for the most part, NO ONE HAS NOTICED. I’m not joking. I was expecting funny looks and comments when I started rolling up wearing my Converse EVERYWHERE with EVERYTHING, including to the beach with my swimsuit. But no one has said a thing up to this point. Interesting, in light of our consumer driven, external appearance focused culture.

 

And sorry for the ridiculous What’s Eating Gilbert Grape allusion, but I kind of love that movie (Johnny Depp before he got weird and Leonardo DiCaprio before he got hot!) and I do frequently refer to my shoes (any of them) as “shoedas”.

SO MANY THINGS!!!!

I have studiously been working on a post about my on going shoe piece, applying to shows, reading/researching, teaching kids about art, and cooking, but while doing all of that, SO MANY THINGS HAVE HAPPENED THAT I JUST FREAKING CAN’T KEEP UP!

ALL THE THINGS

The next blog post I was going to write (once I finally posted the one about the shoes) was going to be about performance art and popular culture smashing into one another and making weird offspring. I was thinking about this specific topic because, A) I make performance art, B) I’m not entirely sure people understand what performance art is, and C) my Sister the Psychologist posted this about Amanda Bynes potentially being the greatest performance artist ever. That all got me thinking about Lady Gaga (never thought I’d be talking about her on my blog…), and the interpretations of her as a performance artist that were rife about 2 years ago, and then about the more recent Tilda Swinton and James Franco performance art… But before I had even had a chance to sit down and sift through my thoughts on this matter, much less properly research it (ie not just Google “Lady Gaga Performance Art” or “Tilda Swinton Sleeping” or “James Franco Performance Artist”, and copy and past the most recent link I could find… Like I might have just done….), I get an email from Hyperallergic telling me THIS HAPPENED.

If you’re like me, and didn’t have the damn Vine app (but unlike me refuse to download it, even for this epic something) here are some images of JAY-Z RAPPING AT MARINA ABRAMOVIC AT PACE GALLERY IN NYC. (I whole heartedly admit that these are not mine, I found them doing a Google image search. The first is from blouinartinfo.com, and the second from vogue.com):

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Yeah, in case you missed that:

Jay-Z-Marina-Abramovic-Dance-Feature

That one’s from hipinion.com…

I haven’t even had time to process this. I feel like I need an adult or something. I’m not even sure what to say… I can’t keep up with all this arting! Hennessy Youngman help me out here! Give me sometime to think about this and do some reading and I will totally get back to you on this topic. Until then just… Um, I guess make some performance art?!

Oh! And this happened too:

Dry spell officially watered!
Dry spell officially watered!

More soon!