Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Taffy Heart

Today I worked in my studio. Finally. After almost 2 1/2 months of living here I decided to turn my back on the unorganized mess of boxes and just create. I put in a CD that Kristine sent me a few months ago and CRANKED it. It's a compilation of some of her favorite songs that she titled "Brighter Day"--and, oh...it did brighten my day! I listened closely, even more closely than before...and I feel like I learned things about her on a deeper level. There is something wonderfully personal about getting to know someone through their music.. Today, Kristine, a fellow artist, felt near to my heart. As I created, I felt the presence of many of my closest blogging friends. I felt, quite simply...love. And it was wonderful.

Before today I had not painted since August, right before Vinny and I moved. The last thing I painted was a portrait of Tara Dawn and her sister. I was thankful that she asked me to do it, because if she hadn't I would have let life get in the way. Life was busy then. But, then again, when isn't it?

These days I haven't been "letting" myself paint. I say this because, at some point, I made the decision that what I really need to do is focus on my thesis. I promised myself that I wouldn't get carried away by any big painting projects until I finished the thesis. One thing I know about myself is that I tend to focus my creative energy on only one thing at a time. If I'm writing, I'm writing. If I'm doing ceramics, I'm doing ceramics. If I'm painting, I'm painting. I've always wanted my creative endeavors to overlap, but I'm rarely able to do so successfully. So I made this promise to myself because, damnit, I want to finish this thesis and be done with grad school.

I've been feeling good about the amount of writing I've been doing lately. And I feel good about this renewed sense of commitment I have with writing. I use a different part of my brain for writing than I do for painting. I feel my writing brain becoming stronger and more flexible. It feels wonderful, liberating, like there were doves caught in some sort of mental muck that needed to be set free. But my recent dedication to writing has been at the great expense of painting.

I go to coffee shops nearly every day--and all of the coffee shops I frequent display work by local artists. Each time, I literally have to stop myself from asking if they have any upcoming openings when I could show my work. It nearly leaps right out of my mouth before I make a conscious effort to hold my tongue while I mentally remind myself that I need to finish my thesis first!

The ill-formed logic is obvious, I'm sure. But I've been maintaining this attitude for several months now. Meanwhile, my paint brushes have been collecting dust...and a part of my heart, too.

The other day at work something happened to jolt me out of my militant mind-set towards art and writing. When I was hired at the bookstore they asked if I would be willing to do artwork for the store. We will soon be doing a new window display for the holiday season and I, of course, was happy to volunteer my time to paint the window. Then, because the owner had never seen my work, he changed his mind. Instead, he asked me to bring in some samples of my work. He was unsure of me. It made me feel like a total nobody, but I understand (having standards is a good thing). The next day I brought in the samples. He was impressed and advised me to show my work somewhere--as though this was a new idea.

First of all, let me just say that he is a very nice man, a good boss, and has been friendly to me since the very beginning. Secondly, he meant those words purely as a compliment.

But, I'll tell you, it bothered me. Because the thing is that he doesn't know that I have exhibited my work. Actually, until I moved, I was having shows on a regular basis. I felt like he thought I was inexperienced and, well, this bothered me. A lot. Not because of him, but because, at that moment, I realized that in the past 2 1/2 months I have grown dangerously distant from my artwork.

That was Saturday. Since then I've been trying to make sense of where I need to be right now in terms of writing and in terms of painting. There's a part of me that wonders if maybe it was just my ego that flared up at his comment. There's another, more important, part of me that wonders if my painting-heart is gasping for air and trying desperately to get my attention.

Today I worked in my studio. And it felt good. More than good--I was giddy, ridiculously giddy. I could barely contain myself. There's a full length mirror in the studio and I found myself dancing in front of it (don't laugh!). I was smiling so big that I barely recognized myself. I sang and talked to myself and then got to work...but not before turning up the music just a little bit more. I was in full-blown ecstatic glory. And this carried on for several hours.

In that time, I painted and played around with new ideas for shows in my head. I tend to work in series and, when the ideas really take hold, they have the potential to take over my life for months at a time.

I'm not sure my heart has ever felt pulled, so persistently, in different directions. Right now I have taffy heart. For now I can only say that I will try my best to honor the most sacred parts of myself--both painting and writing.

My life needs to move forward. And right now there are strings holding me to commitments that I need to fulfill. Finishing my Masters is important to me. Continuing to paint is also important. It is difficult to know how to proceed.


Anonymous said...

okay, peaches, when the hell did you post this? because i was just here about ten minutes ago, and then i made some yerba mate and came back and was going to finish that damned essay when i remembered i wanted to read the excerpt from "sold" before i got down to it (and visit a bit more with you here) and then - blam! another post. i feel blessed.

i can empathize with what you're going through. i suppose in a way i'm "luckier" in that my main passion/talent is for writing...while you are a ferocious goddess in almost everything you lay a hand to, it must be difficult to discipline yourself to just one. but i have paint brushes and film and clay that i usually love to express myself with that i haven't...really...since i started school. (the program...getting to that email...is a bitch.)
first. i don't necessarily think/subscribe to the idea that one art precludes the other, although i do work the same way you seem to when you say that you can only concentrate on one at a time.
what is your thesis on?
one of the things i immediately thought of is, before thesis-writing, getting your brain 'unlocked' by unleashing some of your painting creativity. because you're right...they're totally different parts of the brain, and i, for one, am completely fascinated by what your genius will come up with.

this should have really been an email.

to end off, jessie, i am.so.glad. you had an overflow of ecstasy today. do you know how excited i was for you when i read the first line of your post? your STUDIO? YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!!

you so needed it. you so deserved it. i am in awe of you, wondrous woman. awooooo.

Kristine said...

YAY! I am so glad you followed your instincts and simply painted! Thank you for your kind words too. Last night I was saying how I wish I could hang out with you in person... You are amazing!
As for the boss telling you that you should show your work, I have had a similar experience recently. I don't know if it is ego necessary. I think it may be the fact that assumptions were made without even asking you where you'd shown your work. I was told "If you ever sell a piece of art you will know how good it feels..." For some reason that remark still make my skin burn and it's been about two weeks since I heard it. I don't know.... Hmmmm.
I know what you mean about being locked into only one creative endeavor at a time. I can't let myself switch gears either although sometimes the heart takes over and you simply have to indulge yourself. I am glad to hear that you had such a good day.

P.S. My globalization paper was written while playing your India CD. It was played 4 times in a row.

Loralee Choate said...

I am just sitting here wondering what it would be like to be talented enough to be pulled so seriously in so many directions.

That is a very awesome amount of gifts you have, sweet Jessie.

gkgirl said...

"There's another, more important, part of me that wonders if my painting-heart is gasping for air and trying desperately to get my attention."

that is such a visceral image
that made me stop for a second
and take it in...
great writing.

and about the dilemma...
i wish i could give advice
however, i am a dabbler...
i flit from one to another,
i get excited about everything.

but i do think the painter side
of you is trying to tell you
something and that is why you
felt such a strong reaction
to what your boss said...

Mark said...


You have magnificent, multiple gifts.

I don't think it matters whether people know that. What matters is using them. Recognition is fleeting and soon forgotten.

Except for those of us who know you.

deirdre said...

I could feel the joy of painting in your words. I'm just starting to learn that feeling with the little bit of art I dabble in, and I have to say it's a pretty good feeling. Good for you for taking time to nourish your soul again.

sophie said...

do what moves you when you are

moving piece;)

melba said...

I felt you in this post. I was sitting here reading and I felt you explaining your day to me and I could visualize you painting; it was so nice!
I want to see some of your work. I want to see it to know you more, to understand.
I don't have any advice as I always want to do 5 million things at once...I find it difficult to focus.
I believe in you.

paris parfait said...

How to proceed? One day at a time, dear Jessie. A little art, a little work on the thesis, a little writing - not one at the expense of the others. You'll get there in the end. As for the comment from the guy, he can't know that you showed your work previously unless it said that on your resume or you told him. Plus he's a guy - guys can be so clueless sometimes. So don't take his remarks personally - obviously he did appreciate your art once he saw it (and will appreciate your shows once you're ready to do another one). Don't stress about the "taffy pull." (Great expression by the way). You're doing what you need to do now to reach your goals.