Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Summer Holiday

Although I was not intending it to be the case, Artful Mistakes (and I) ended up taking the summer off.  Creative work was still going on, albeit in my usual sporadic way, but I didn't have much to say about it.  After feeling bad about my neglect of this blog and accompanying implied shoddy work ethic, I've now opted for a broader view. A fallow period in any project can be wise in that it provides the opportunity for context, reflection and course corrections.

Artful Mistakes: A Short History

Artful Mistakes started as a place for me, a relatively private person, to be more public in my wranglings with art. I also hoped to start conversations and perhaps collaborations with other arty-inclined friends.

I started this blog in the very tail end of 2009, a few months after my brother's death. In retrospect, his death was the first several events punctuating a tough era of my life, one from which only fairly recently would I say I've emerged.

While my stated initial intent was to write about art in its many forms (writing, painting, photography, music, the creative process, etc.), what I also ended up writing about was absence, loss, grief, and difficult relationships, be they with the living, the dead, fictional characters or thorny art projects.  In writing about all of those, I necessarily wrote about healing and finding peace, the way out of dark places.

My mother was diagnosed with cancer in 2011 and died in 2013.  A man I knew killed himself in 2013. Another friend of mine's mother, Betty, an enormously kind woman who among other brave moves taught me how to drive, passed away in 2013 also.  Other family members had concerning, complicated health issues. I moved multiple times - DC, Maryland, New Mexico, Oregon, Florida - disrupting local support networks, and pursued romantic relationships that were stressful and ill-fated. It was no wonder I was having trouble moving out of grief.

One marvelous aspect of art is that it provides an indirect way into touchy topics.  My mother, for instance, became a consistent reader of my blog, and in that somewhat circuitous way, I think we began to know each other in a different way, not just as mother and child but also as readers, armchair philosophers, and lovers of beauty also put upon by griefs that preceded and followed my brother death.  Also, because this blog is public, any commentary was much less fraught or pointed than any email or phone call -- it was just what I was thinking about, and Mom could connect with it or not; it wasn't a barometer of our own personal relationship.

Of course, I suspected some pieces Mom would like more than others, just as I knew other family readers would like some more than others too. Some of those opinions were based on artistic merit, but often, it was also personal opinion and style -- and sometimes I was surprised by who liked what. Unexpectedly, friends would find something on a post to which they connected, and sometimes strangers, or near strangers.

One offshoot of this blog is that I was often uncomfortably aware that people could, if they liked to read, know a great deal more about me than I did about them.  Although I wish my writing more often had larger scope, I am largely a confessional writer. And, of course, some folks whom I wished would riveted by all things about me (me me me me me) did not commit each post to memory, much to my dismay.

Particularly during my mother's illness and for some time after her death, I struggled with, yeah, the meaning of life.  It became abundantly clear that time was short.  My brother's death showed that death could come out of nowhere, sudden, harsh, final.  My mother's illness pointed out that not only is it short, but that quality of life is of consideration too.  My friend's suicide made that even more clear as I floundered in and out of my own depressions, hoping to avoid coming to the same solution he decided upon.

I used art to communicate what sometimes I could not articulate, or could barely piece together. One of my first paintings - dreadful and not at all true to life, but one very large canvas - was of my mother and brother together.  And in working on that, I saw an insight into nuances of their relationship that I likely could not ever have seen had I not spent so much time staring at a photo of them and wondering about particular expressions and all the time that came before that moment, and the short time that would come after it and how to translate that onto canvas.  The literal struggle of understanding the angles of people's faces explored the more complex struggle of trying to understand the internal world of people I loved.

I would give a great deal to sit and talk to my mother again, or just sit and hold her hand. I would give almost anything to have been able to magically take away her cancer and give her a longer life. Instead, I only see her in dreams, usually with my brother in attendance.

So what I am saying in again, a somewhat circuitous way, is that art is one thing that kept me afloat during a sometimes isolated and tumultuous time.  I didn't know that's what Artful Mistakes was about for a while, although I realized I wrote about the dead too often for it to be a Fun, Lighthearted blog, and that my writing is (as this post is as well) often too personal for some folks. Probably, I have lost some work opportunities because of this blog, but possibly, I have also been given some opportunities because of this blog as well.  Certainly the warmth and conversations it had generated have more than made up for the discomforts of exposure and vulnerability.

Artful Mistakes: Looking Ahead

And now here I am back to life, and a fallow period (perhaps) coming to a close, grief managed as much as any losses ever are.  My address is constant, my friends and family solid, and one ancient cat still purrs next to me.  Many things still need to be figured out -- it's life, you don't just arrive one day, the decisions big and little keep on -- but I know I am more solid at the core.

acrylic on canvas
What that means for my creative life, and how it will manifest in this blog, I'm not sure.  My current painting in progress is Ophelia from Hamlet.  In some ways, I'll always be drawn to darker subjects. But before her, there was Tree of Life.  My hope is that my art will be more about exploration and curiosity, more external, less internal, and more connected.

When I was researching post-traumatic stress disorder for a former client, I had opportunity to learn another term: post-traumatic growth. After the bad times can sometimes come a leap forward.  And I am hoping that leap is next for me after this fallow period, that the ground is restored and ready for new growth.

Like everyone, I have regrets - things I wish I had done, thing I wish I hadn't.  But I'm resolving to to look forward more than backwards, to look toward those adventures yet to be had, love and laughter and all the other greeting-card sentiments that are, as those cards proclaim, the moments that make our lives quirky, creative and wondrous.

No comments:

Post a Comment