Saturday, August 25, 2007

Rants, Ravings, and Ramblings

The last few weeks have been somewhat busy. Some things were interesting and some pretty boring. A mixture of good, bad, stressful, relaxing, and everything in between. One of my major accomplishments was to somewhat clean up my studio. This has taken up most of my time. You can see from the photos that the studio is far from neat and tidy. By nature I am not a neat and organized person. Still, this is far better than it has been for some months. A little more work and I’ll be happy. I also spent time reorienting the layout trying to better utilize the space. So far I like it.

The art show at the nudist resort was a bust. There were about 20 booths. A mixture of painting, sculpture, photography, woodworking, and jewelry. The only sales were a few small pieces of jewelry. Everyone else, including myself, didn’t sell anything. The year before there was a big turnout and everyone made sales. Oh well, you don’t know unless you try. I was hoping for enough sales to fund the trip for the fair in FL in October. Now, I’ll have to cancel that plan. The cost of gasoline to get down there will cost too much.

We also had a large gathering of my wife’s family at our house. That alone is enough to make me want to head for the hills. These people are okay I guess. Nothing really to make them stand out from most other middle class people. They all want to portray a good image to those around them. They are all concerned with financial success and security. Churchgoers who want their children to get a good education and go on to be successful themselves. The All-American dream. They are all pretty reserved and are always politically correct. So, why don’t I get along that well with them?

For one thing they are all pretty conservative. That, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. I like to have conversations with people who have different views. God knows that I love a good healthy debate with an exchange of thoughts and ideas. When I get together with my sisters and their families that is what we do. I call it enthusiastic discussions but my wife calls it arguing. She was raised in a family where the dad was the patriarch and no arguing or raised voices were allowed. Her family has a definite pecking order and everyone has a role within the family. My background was a little more animated and some of us (me) refused the role that was assigned while my oldest sister assigned herself the role of head of the family, after my parents died, but no one pays any attention to her. It’s like the old saying, “call me what you want just don’t call me late to dinner.”

So fitting in is a bit difficult for me. My wife says that I shouldn’t talk religion or politics. Well, three of my favorite topics are art, religion, and politics. And since none of these family members really likes to talk about art that really limits me. Put that together with me not being conservative. I seldom am politically correct. I am opinionated, outspoken, and have a low tolerance for bullshit. Did I also mention that I refuse to play my role in this family drama?

“If you are young and are conservative, you have no heart. If you are old and liberal, you have no brain.” This is an old saying that I have heard many times and I still don’t believe it. It is interesting, though, to see how people got there. It is even more interesting to see how these same patterns repeat themselves over and over again all through history.

“Freedom is having nothing left to loose.” From the song, ME AND BOBBY McGee by Kris Kristofferson.

A friend of mine who is an engineer and has taught business management classes over the years once told me that companies are only truly entrepreneurial when they first start up. Why? Because they have nothing to loose. Once they get some success they begin to circle the wagons to protect what they have gained. The business model goes from entrepreneurial (liberal) to protective (conservative). People do the same thing. The art community is not exempt from this. How many artists who are well known and famous keep producing the same kind of work year after year? It is a scary idea to risk money and reputation on trying something new. Stay the course and alter your values from what got you there to what is going to keep you there. This is part of what puts me at odds with my wife’s family. It is what has dissolved a friendship with her twin brother that started 30 years ago.

Perhaps because our assets are modest, my wife and I have remained liberal (we have less to loose). My wife’s twin graduated with an art degree and moved to NYC where we met. We were both struggling artists. He was crazy enough to take what little extra money he had and invest it in getting an MFA degree. I invested my extra money in beer. We would visit the galleries and both painted. After 3 years of taking my work around to galleries and getting rejected I returned to San Francisco. He never really took his portfolio around but paid more and more attention to business and remained in NYC. By the time I married his sister a few years later he was still liberal, still making art, and earning his money in entrepreneurial ways while I was schlepping from job to job to pay the bills. Years later, he and his wife started their own business. After many years of hard work it grew into a successful business. With that growth came change. He became conservative and defensive. He had success and understandably he didn’t want to loose it. His success has continued over the years. My wife and I are people of modest means where he and his wife have considerable (by our standards) means yet he doesn’t seem all that happy.

Now, when I see him occasionally at family gatherings he seems to put great effort into avoiding me. The person who once shared many of my personal views now eschews them. The person who thought of materialism as a social ill now embraces the trickle down philosophy of Reagonomics. The guy who I knew as a bi-sexual and would have sex with anything with a pulse (the 3 years I was in NYC he had about 100 sexual partners with 30% being men) now uses my unmarried daughter and her son (my grandson) as a warning to his children about sexual activity and considers Bill Clinton as immoral because Monica gave him a hummer. SIGH. I will say that his attitude that I am not the kind of person he would want to associate with is correct. If I were him I wouldn’t like me either. Hell, I am me and I always don’t like me. But it became clear that I needed to cut the last thread of a friendship that really died years ago. It’s hard for me to move forward when I keep trying to drag the long dead past with me.

Anyhow, all was not lost. I grabbed a plate full of food and a bottle of Chianti and slipped quietly into my studio where I enjoyed time alone listening to Mozart and reflecting on my lack of financial success. I have so many other success of different kinds. My enthusiasm for making art is returning. I finished 2 pieces and have started 3 more using a new paint medium that I am enjoying. As I reflected on the baggage of my past I have been pulling out old pieces that have been around for way too long. When all this wet weather we are having here finally ceases I will build a bonfire out of these paintings and offer them as a sacrificial gift to the art gods. Soli Deo Gloria!

These 2 paintings are a continuation of my Winter Walk series. They are both done in oil on masonite panels with some detail added with PrismaColor pencils they measure 18” X 16” and 16” X 18”. The other images are interior shots of my studio.