We are approaching the one year anniversary of first wave of pandemic shut downs in the US. It’s strange to look back and remember how utterly flabbergasted I was by the though of in-person school just ending and not coming back for a whole 6 weeks. Now, having more or less adjusted (accepted our fate), to a work from home schedule and with both children still not attending school in-person, the world as I knew it last March feels much farther away than the space of a year.
“Zen pretty much comes down to three things — everything changes; everything is connected; pay attention.”
― Jane Hirshfield
Not long after the shut down I came across the quote above. I remember thinking about it and the mysterious (to me) concept of Zen, how it felt like everything had changed, seemingly overnight. Thinking about the paradox of this huge world that I suddenly felt much more connected to, even while my social circle and actual number of human interactions dramatically lessened.
Around the same time my kids and I started making stick lean-to structures around our neighborhood and alongside the creek that runs through the heart of town. We would stop and build them up one stick at a time, sometimes carefully, sometimes slapdash, balancing fallen branches and bits of twigs.
In my early pandemic naivety, I tried so hard to re-create the schedule that we had lost, to bring back and impose the past on our new reality- sigh/chuckle. This was before hitting the many “pandemic walls,” before I knew it was enough to just try and make it through and [insert lessons yet to be learned]. The only thing for us to do is pay attention and it’s hard enough to be the only thing. Change will continue to happen, connection will continue to happen.
“To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it.”
A timeline of a creative process
Start Here* With a beautiful idea/goal/dream. I have received some sort of creative input from [insert cool Instagram artist my neighbor just told me about] and now there are endless possibilities and a kind of optimism that allows me to go out and buy that giant canvas AND despite trying and failing to find that damn email from Michael’s with the 40% off coupon, I don’t feel even a little bit harried, nope! and to the young innocent clerk, I lie and say “no big deal!” All the while holding tightly onto that *bliss* quietly chanting to myself “get it girl, you got this.”
A week or so in. There’s a good base coat of paint on the canvas and inhibitions are still miles off shore, best be safe and not stare too intently in that direction tho. Also far adrift is my original idea, what was it really about? It’s all getting kind of hazy. Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe I’ll just keep going and see what happens next.
WORK. the good sh*$. The ZONE.
Burn it down. Like truly, madly, deeply– I hate it. If there was a way to actually burn it without burning down my studio (littered as it is with paint soaked rags-yikes), I think I would have done it. So instead I paint over, or tear up, occasionally snip snipping it into tiny pieces, anything to move past that feeling of revulsion and despair.
(Sometimes I don’t, sometimes I just ride the feeling and give the work some space. )
(Sometimes I do. And sometimes after it’s all wiped out, including my sense of artist accomplishment and creative identity, there is emptiness.)
Reconciliation. There is accounting to be done, now this relationship has experienced conflict. And for that conflict it has depth and well placed holes in it’s jeans.
Wrapping it up. The “you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here” phase, that calls for picking up the pieces and making a bit of sense out of my composition and palette. At this point I am usually feeling proud of the work or at least fond of the direction I am headed, there is an end in sight.
The end? Hard to say. Phew, this feels like a lot of steps. In reality they can be all mushed up, out of order and repeating! But there usually is an END, and when I am there I almost always (all jokes aside) find release. A sense of “coming through” and catharsis.
Social distancing, isolation, feeling adrift and separate. These were some of things I was considering when I wrote out my application for the 2021 Redmond Art Season grants. I’m still thinking and feeling these things and now, also making art about it. I am so very excited to be able to be able to partner with the City of Redmond on my project “From Me to You” (From You to Me) and I’ll be posting more about this project and my learning and growing process as we journey along. For me the heart of the project is about trying to connect safely with each other, our family, our community, and especially our Elders during this challenging time.
Here’s a little more info from my proposal: “From Me to You” (From You to Me) invites community members to consider the space between themselves and others. In the challenging time of a pandemic, the piece references the call to social distancing in it’s spacing and placement and utilizes simple language to begin a dialogue about how we engage with one another. The two stand alone sculptures will be positioned across from one another as though in conversation and in doing so will create a pathway so that viewers pass through a space held by the work. The painted back panels of the piece will reference the colors and natural palette of the park.
“Connection is why we are here. It gives purpose and meaning to our lives”
There is a community engagement component to the work that will hopefully include letters from the community to seniors, a subsection of the community hit especially hard by the pandemic… more on that to come.
Not gonna lie- working on setting up this website was a bit of a mental stretch for this elder millennial, part pain, part release, the familiar yet eternally unsettling ritual of trying to turn on the lights without knowing where the switch is mixed with the awkwardness of being the new kid in town.
Speaking of being the new kid in town, if you took a look at my adult life so far and decided to slice into it at any given point you would likely see me feeling like the new kid. For this post and brevity’s sake, I am going to focus on my “new-kid-ness” in the stunning Pacific Northwest.
In 2019 I up and moved from the suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona all the way up to another suburb outside of Seattle, WA, where I soon learned it was all too common and none too novel to be “the new kid in town” with it’s influx of tech workers and their families. Since then I have been journeying to find my footing, especially as a professional artist. Is that what I am calling myself these days? I also like to say emerging public artist because it brings to mind creatures coming out of holes and struggling to shake off things.
Way back in “the before times” I worked in mental health as an art therapist, and there was a point in this transition where I had convinced myself that to move forward I was going to have to let go and eschew that designation. While I no longer feel this way, I recognize that there was mourning that needed to happen around letting go of a specific set of goals and dreams that I had been working towards. I feel more confident and comfortable claiming my roots in mental health and embracing my training with all it’s twisty turns and set backs. So, typically in CV’s I say something like: “My name is Tina and I am an artist, I have worked as an art therapist, family counselor, gallery manager, program director, independent artist and art instructor.” It feels like a lot of hats but there is a theme and I suspect it’s not out of the ordinary for my generation.
That’s probably more than enough for introductions, so I’ll let it be for now, on-and-off-again new kid out.
Bo is our family’s Mini American Shepherd and I’m not sorry to tell you that he’s the goodest boi there ever was.
You can usually find Bo sleeping by my feet in my art studio or chasing my kids around. He loves to herd our chickens and wiggle his butt. He is also the first dog that I have cared for as an adult, in B.B. (before Bo, of course) there was a turtle, fish, rat, some cats and birds.
I used to watch Christopher Guest’s “Best In Show” (2000) and laugh at the absurdity of the pet owners and their fanatic obsession with their dogs, but now, sigh, I think you know where I am going with this, don’t make me say it…
As I mentioned earlier, Bo is the bestest, see evidence below.
Unlimited doggie kisses
Butt & nubbin wiggles (I know I already said this but it’s crucial)
He reminds me to get outside and walk every day
Cheers to all the sweet pets out there helping us make it through.