A lot of things come to light when you are away from home. Don't get me wrong. I am not saying "I am on vacation and things are GREAT!" I am talking about discovering something about how I am based on being in a different place, a different location, a different light. I am making different paintings because the light of Savannah is different than that of Boston or of Central Maine. That sort of goes without saying. What I am getting at is this trip to Savannah has put some things in plain view. Things I try hard not to think about.
First of all, I am a very solitary person and it has never really bothered me until I came here. For the first time in a very long time, I am aware of how very lonely I am and how unconnected I feel at times. I have no family to share this experience with, there is no one to call at home, there is no one to check on me and no one for me to check one. In some ways, it gives me a tremendous amount of freedom, but in other ways it leads to feeling very unmoored. It becomes clear when I see something or experience something and I want to share it with someone I know and who knows me.
I have friends. That is not the issue and I share my experiences and feelings and adventures with them. It goes deeper than that. My Mother remembered a time before I could remember. She saw me through many different ways of being and to be able to share this experience (and the emergence of a career after a lot of hard work) would be something. It would make her very proud and happy and I would have the satisfaction of watching her investment in me pay off. If I was married, I am sure my husband would feel the same way. If I had children, they would be proud of their dad. My friends are happy for me and I know that they love me. I don't like to think about this at all, but I miss having a family. It took leaving Massachusetts to realize what I don't have and I don't really have that sort of group of relatives that are in your corner. Other people have their own families. Mine is damaged, fractured, explosive and wounded. I cannot expect that kind of support from them.
When I was in High School we had to read a book by Chaim Potok called My Name is Asher Lev. It is a story about an Hasidic Jew who becomes a painter on the cutting edge of contemporary art. In the book, Asher has to reconcile his faith, his family, and his responsibility to his art work. On the one side is his father, and on the other is Jacob Kahn, his teacher. Asher talks about the loneliness that is living the life of an artist. I sort of understand this now.
The loneliness of the artist is not an abstract thing. It really is the condition of making art. The solitude that I require to make work is not something I would (or could) give up. What a tremendous gift it is to have this time and this place to make the work. I am a very fortunate man. In the heart of all this, though, I am faced with the way I have structured my life to make my work. I would not change the decisions I've made (to be single, to be childless, to teach, to commit to artmaking as a central fact of my life) for anything because I truly love this life. However, being here reinforces how much of my life I have done alone.