Being away...

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.  


For those of you interested, here are the texts I am using for my Visiting Artist Seminar Classes.  Many of them can be found in the MassArt Library, and also the articles are available on the JSTOR database.

Mira Schor WET: On Painting, Feminism and Art Culture
David Batchelor CHROMOPHOBIA

W.E.B. DuBois "Of Our Spiritual Strivings"  from THE SOULS OF BLACK FOLK
Cornell West "The New Cultural Politics of Difference" from OUT THERE: Marginalization and Contemporary Cultures
Susan Buck-Morss AESTHETICS AND ANAESTHETICS: Benjamin's Artwork Essay Reconsidered
Gerhard Richter ATLAS
Charlotte Mullins PAINTING PEOPLE: Figure Painting Today
Agnes Martin WRITINGS
VITAMIN P: New Perspectives in Painting
VITAMIN D: New Perspectives in Drawing

Meeting people....

I've met a lot of people this week. I really think I may have met too many people. I am really exhausted.

The first week of classes is over and it was really great. I have 2 fine cohorts of students and they are really excited about getting to work. The rosters and working with the Registrar has been difficult, but I am hoping the sailing is a lot smoother here on out.

The high point of the week, besides the teaching, setting up my studio, and meeting Hung Liu, an amazing artist from China, was the Visiting Artist Lecture from Steven Yazzie. I met Steven at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture when he was a Participant in 2006. The work he created there became a large scale, multi-media project called Drawing and Driving. He showed this work and all it its various permutations and also showed work he is making with a collaborative of artists called Postcommodity. It was a really far reaching presentation and he talked very generously about his practice and how he allows his work to grow out of itself. He is a very exciting artist to keep an eye on.

After Steven's lecture, we went to dinner at a restaurant called local11ten, where all the the food on the menu was locally grown. It made me think of Sarah Beth, she would have loved to see a fine dining establishment that was committed to the local environment and area growers. Plus the food was amazing. Steven, and I got to talk and I also got to speak at length with the amazing Hung Liu. Her show is at SCAD right now and there was a very large speaking event for her the same night as Steven's. I wish that I could have heard her speak as well. Since she grew up in Communist China and I grew up in a leftist family, we had a great time singing old party songs and talking about Paul Robeson. Her exhibition at SCAD is called Memorial Grounds. You can see images of her work at her website.

We also had a sort of pep rally/faculty meeting this morning for the entire faculty. SCAD is essentially staffed by adjuncts at the Savannah campus, so this means that there are a huge number of people teaching here, just like MassArt. At this all faculty meeting, we had a speaker named Peggy Maki, an Education Consultant and Assessment Editor who talked to us about how to assess students and how to figure out how they are doing in class. I have to tell you, I was so glad that I knew about the Studio Habits of Mind because everything this woman was saying was an affront to what I know about making and teaching art. She was so focused on rhetoric and rubrics that she lost sight of what and how one learns in the making. It was so results oriented that she never saw what artists learn from error or mistakes. Lastly, it was so concerned with metric evaluation that it did not move the student from problem solving to problem creating. You can bet that as soon as the presentation was over, I gave her my card with the name of Lois's book on the back. I have to order another copy of the book from Amazon. I gave my copy away.