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November 06, 2010

Letter from a Starving Artist. Read it and weep.

I came across this gem from 1983. I was in college at U.T. After getting bum advice from my high school career counselor who steered me into the education department so that I could get a degree teaching art, I finally made it to the studio arts department. Meanwhile, I had used up all my electives drinking and studying Emerson and Thoreau and fantasizing about Walden. There was also the ROTC class in riflery, in which I was told I was a good shot and would I consider being a recruit. By the time I took my first painting class, I had theoretically been enrolled in college for 4 years. I crammed all my painting classes into my last two years of college and worked day and night in the painting studio. I'm surprised my parents didn't burn these letters.

Oh, and just for the record, about 2 years later, I did get a job working as a window dresser for a department store chain. One day when I'm feeling brave, I'll post my skill bank and plethora of part-time jobs I've had in the past.  

6 comments :

Carla said...

I'm curious. Before finding and reading this, did you have a clear memory of how things were back then? The request to switch from American Artist to Artforum/Artnews, sigh, innocence lost.

M.A.H. said...

I do. As a kid I remembered poring over the how-to sections in American Artist. I also had a early bent toward abstraction and my aunt & uncle had given me a sub to Artnews or Art in America- whichever had the infamous Picasso Bread Fingers photo on the cover, so that one was no big deal- but an art professor practically mandated that we be keeping up with Artforum if we had any intention of being serious artists. Thus the focus mysteriously shifted from wanting to be a simple artist in the world, to trying to make a mark in The Art World. Innocence lost, indeed. Heavy sigh.

M.A.H. said...

I have no recollection of when I became aware of "regionalism" in art, but I'm guessing it was a day or two before I wrote the letter.

My mother saved EVERY single piece of correspondence of mine throughout the years. I was notably brain-dead according to the tone of most of my letters.

Carla said...

Actually, I was wondering more about the day-to-day money worries. I remember having to watch every penney, and feeling guilty about money, but it's a factual memory now. This letter really reveals some of that angst in a real way.

I do remember the 'great art moments' from then. But I have no such connection to the 'daily worries' stuff from that time.

You were much more generous in sharing with your parents than I was.

M.A.H. said...

My parents more or less coerced me into getting a student loan to attend college. They didn't make it sound like I had a choice. I didn't manage my loan money very well. At all. When I read these letters, I see a kid trying to guilt her parents into sending her money by making them feel like I'm hanging on by a thread. I was of course, but I was also partying a lot, so I wasn't in touch with the reality of worrying. The summer before I graduated though, I remember feeling very desolate. My parents had finally cut me off completely. I had done a residency at the beginning of the summer and didn't have a job when I got back. I couldn't afford to do anything. I sat on my roof, got a tan, and read books from the library all summer. I think I read Harold & Maude 3 times that summer. I ate pita bread with pizza sauce for every meal. I remember the 2nd part of that summer as being godawful.

Carla said...

"This letter really reveals some of that angst in a real way." Doh!