Love After Love
“The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.”Derek Walcott
My father always liked a crisp display of left brain achievement, preferably with a title attached, so he was disappointed when I told him I wanted to return to school and be a full time artist. It’s not a profession that skips off the tongue like engineer, lawyer, magazine editor, doctor or banker. Telling people that your daughter is an artist sounds fuzzy, like she is dodging a commitment to a world that runs by a 9-5 clock to malinger and sleep in. Nor was he thrilled by no guarantee of income and accolades. Far from it.
But my father did come around, and he asked me for copies of my portfolio to send to gallery dealer friends with a personalized note. I protested. He insisted. And all of these portfolios were wordlessly returned to me except for one. With a message. On the back of the manila envelope that held my slides (yes, that is how old I am) there was a note, scrawled in hasty cursive in big sharpie: “Does she really think she can run with the Big Boys? Seriously?” Some assistant forgot to remove this detail and I was devastated. I was very tender back then, not very seasoned and not really any good yet. I asked my father for a networking cease and desist. He was mortified by his friend’s fumble, and gave up being my agent. I have no doubt that he confronted his friend’s protocol lapse, but I was relieved to be off the hook and forged my way without his help.
That dealer was right. The Big Boy art world isn’t mine. I worked hard and carved out a tiny niche, taught watercolor, and grew content with my place in things. I enjoy following art shows and Big Boy friends who seamlessly navigate the blue chip art world. I watch the steady parade of new and old cause célèbres and the vanities from the sidelines. Some of the art is dazzling, some not so much. My nose is no longer pressed to the glass.
I do regret the energy I spent trying to prove that I had something to offer. It made me vulnerable to sabotage - either through my own anxiety, or by crazymakers. I didn’t listen nearly enough to instinct. All of this was swept away with the arrival of children, a great deal of personal loss, wobbly health, an increased interest in writing and garden design, and different forms of advocacy. I lost my longing for a certain kind of approbation and gained perspective. It took years, as it always does, to realize everything contributes to creative process and there isn't always a tidy transactional exchange. Raising a family, tending to mundane household commitments, gardening at a fevered pitch, walking my dogs, scouring hills for flowers and watching the light move, are unquantifiable. And yes all of it, even the random discussions with the pest control guy about the vole population explosion, are part of my creative collective.