My well has been feeling a bit dry lately, a combination of personal circumstances have left me in a pretty bleak place and I have been struggling to get up in the mornings and go about my day. It’s nothing life shattering, no impending doom, just a settling miasma of discontent. I have been working a lot, teaching at the college and doubling up at the print shop, as well as packing in extra workshops whenever anyone will offer me a space to teach in. I’m feeling tired. This frenzy has come about because the college where I teach cut all the adjunct’s hours and so I was in a financially precarious position again. This felt like a vote of no confidence – that the administration was essentially saying I could be replaced at the drop of a hat by anyone with similar credentials, and I have to be honest that I didn’t like the way that left me feeling. I didn’t get my dream, full-time, salaried position and suddenly it felt as if dreams I had started to believe might come true were slowly unraveling. I have been feeling lost in a way I thought I had moved beyond, like I am alone in a dark room, all the doors suddenly slamming in my face, leaving me feeling bereft. I stuffed those feelings for weeks, and they erupted in bouts of irrational irritability and sadness. Usually my work gives me a place to work all these things out, but even going into the studio seemed too tiring, so I daydreamed about work I might make, and made notes in my sketchbooks. I worked on lessons and workshops, but I have done very little towards my own work for weeks. But yesterday I think I turned a corner, and today I finally feel as if I am walking back into the sun.
In the past week I have seen two incredible shows, and just seeing that passion has helped me remember what passion looks and feels like. On Friday I went to the opening of Fragments of Memory at the Center Gallery in Olean (on the JCC campus). I was predisposed to like this show before I even walked into the gallery, both artists are women whose work I admire; I own a piece of Heather’s work, and am lucky to have her as a teaching colleague and friend, and I have written here on the blog before about how much I like Angie To’s work. There is an interesting dialogue going on between the two artists, although they didn’t meet until the night of the opening, which was an unexpected pleasure. Heather works on a small scale in cold wax and pigment, whereas To makes these much larger, glamorously glossy images. It seems as if they would have nothing in common beyond an uncannily shared palette, but, as with all well-curated shows, the sum of the two parts yielded possibility and conversation between the works. The underlying theme of the tricky nature of memory provided a common ground, and both painters address the nature of representation and emotion with confidence. If you can get to Olean, go!
Yesterday I spent a lot of my day with the work of Carl Chiarenza, an abstract photographer whose work is mesmorizing. As a printer I am absolutely suckered in by the tactile nature of the rich velvety black in his silver gelatin prints, it is so lush. I heard him lecture twice, once for the students and again in the evening for the public. He took the nature of abstraction, and unpacked it with such clarity, and never dumbed-down his philosophic approach to his own work. I wish I could lecture like that – it was inspirational! I left the gallery feeling renewed and invigorated. So if you live near Jamestown Community College – get to the Weeks and see the show. The images are breathtaking, and take a few minutes to read the essays in the catalogue. I promise you will leave seeing the world anew.
And so, onto the suddenly shining sun, today was one of those days when I remember why I love teaching. My visual survey students actually seemed mesmerized; they stayed past the end of class without fidgeting and rustling. They seemed engaged with the material, and their last essays showed real growth and improvement. And my 2D design students exhibited real learning when critiquing their own work and analyzing the photography in a gallery visit this afternoon. Today was a good day, and before the glow from it (and yoga) fades I am heading off to the studio to see if my muse, or daemon, or genius has taken up residence again, and wants to play.