One thing that happens when a dear friend dies after you have attained your third score of years is a heightened confrontation with your own mortality; that’s been the subject of several recent conversations among my old friends, those of us who knew Bro.
However, my look at that began much earlier, not in morbid terms, but as a practical part of the shift in thinking that took place during the past year. I had the great fortune during the second half of 2013 to meet and have fertile, pivotal conversations with several artists who make their way and their living outside the academic sphere: some had been there and rejected it, some chose to dip in occasionally, carefully portioning their interaction, and some simply had never considered it to have any relevance to their lives or work. These were artists from a wide range of ages, and all were thriving. Each conversation had its initial impact, but it wasn’t until the November peace at Ragdale that they coalesced, blended with other lines of thought, and culminated in some strong realizations.
One of those was the fact that, though I had consciously and actively rejected the results of the corporatization of academe in the arts, I had somehow internalized and at least partially had not questioned its markers of success, its dependence on acknowledgement bestowed by others. None of that has anything at all to do with the making of work, nor of living. And so I decided on this quiet year, to focus on what is essential, on questions and decisions: what do I want now, within the means I have, while I still have, with luck, a decade or more of health, mobility and – pun probably intended – faculty? Not a bucket list, by any means, but a honing.
Not that I’m completely rejecting the outside world (at least not yet); I’ve spent the week working on details of some of the few 2014 events I’ve committed to. There will be four or five invitational shows; here is the first. The vital exchange of teaching, I don’t think I’ll ever completely be able to give up, but I have cut it way back: just two classes, at two of my most beloved, home-like places. Here is the first of those (with a nice blurb in italics that I can’t really say is true; I’m pretty sure I am at least second-generation in terms of artists who work with paper.) This class will fill very quickly, so if you are interested, reserve space now.
Oh, why the photos of Lupe? Because she’s important to me, and that fact led to my first decision.