July 04, 2011

Just when I think I'm tapped out: my new life as a dropout.

Mary Addison Hackett,  The Battle of Lost Hope, 2011
oil on linen
7 x 5 inches

Caveat: okay, maybe I'm not really a dropout and I once read that anyone outside of NYC was an outsider artist, but I struggle a lot. I've had people- other artists and people of art world stature, tell me maybe I shouldn't struggle. They usually say this to me when they happen upon one of my watercolors or a painting which I've tucked away in the studio or unceremoniously hung in my bathroom—one which I've dismissed simply because it came to me with great ease, and therefore I did not trust it. Struggle has been my main MO for years. To a certain extent I still believe in struggle-mainly because it makes me feel good, like I've earned a good painting. Ironically, it's the abstract paintings I struggle with- not because I'm confused, befuddled, or can't paint my way out of a paper bag, but because I like making them difficult. I find it engaging. Correction: I used to find it engaging. Lately though, I sense I am past struggling for the sake of struggling. A couple of banner days in the studio interspersed with a couple of days of getting my ass kicked by ennui and I am now a convert to the No Struggle No Fear way of being. I worked in the home studio over the holiday weekend. It was a holiday after all, so work encompassed lollygagging, reading, and watching a doc on the Reverend Albert Wagner on Netflicks. I also rearranged the furniture in the living room, in an effort to will it into being THE studio, but in the end, I moved everything back like it was and continued drifting in and out of the the den and the dining room studios all weekend. Yesterday, for no apparent reason, a sailboat appeared in my painting. I was suspicious of course, because I had not planned on placing a sailboat in a painting and for the life of me would not have considered painting a sailboat, but there it was, a sailboat on a deep blue ocean. Why, it almost looked like a maritime painter had painted it. There was something pleasant, dignified, and sweet about it. It would have looked amazing in an upper-crusted little boy's room, but I am not a maritime painter, and I sold my kayak earlier this month. I let the sailboat sit in the prussian blue water overnight. This morning after returning from a 1.5 hour hike at the park, I turned the deep blue ocean into murky algae. It now fit into my oeuvre of a pool paintings. Not a huge leap and I felt good for performing that kind of logistical magic, but then I was faced with the Now What? The thing about abstract painting is that there is no Now What? You walk in the studio and paint and eventually the painting reveals itself. Eventually. Since I am now working on images from my surroundings and my somewhat visionary paintings, I encounter moments of Now What?  It's because I am being judicious. Visionaries need to channel energy. For a split moment I thought maybe it's all over. For real this time. I am tapped out. There is nothing left to paint. I will never have another idea. I will have to get a real job, one with a ID badge and a timecard. I will think back on the first part of my life with fondness, and then I will die. But then with grace and ease, I picked up my paintbrush and two new paintings presented themselves to me and I got to keep "painter," rather than "loafer" or "ne'er-do-well," as my job title for another day. Sometimes it's hard to be here because after being an urban dweller for so long, I miss the inherent vitality that comes with big city living, but other times, nay, most of the time, I admit that I secretly like being a dropout and that being a dropout is okay. I've picked a great place to live the life of a dropout: an enclave within a suburban enclave in the South. As a recent dropout, I think I'm doing my best work, which can be a little unsettling if I think I'm only one who has access to this info, but on the other hand, I feel good about trusting myself now. Being a dropout isn't about being trendy, and I'm okay with that too. I've arrived at a place that interests me without struggling about it too much. Grace and ease. Plus I have a confession: I had an aha moment the day I clicked on the link AThousandLivingPainters. As I scrolled through the painters, some familiar, some not, I thought, oh my God, (a) I'm in painting link heaven, (b) but it all looks the same (c) am I contributing anything new to this dialogue? and (d) if not, then why am I still doing it?  Ok, perhaps I was contributing to the dialogue of abstraction, and maybe I still can, but if I had been in a funhouse, I would have run screaming into a mirror trying to get out. Which is exactly what I did. Not literally of course, but metaphorically.


Elaine Mari said...

Thanks, great post, right there with you on the drop out to the suburbs thing, the struggle, let it be over, thing, the "it all looks the same" and I don't want/need to be part of it thing. At least that's what I think you're saying ..maybe it's all projection.

Then there is the feel good about trusting yourself thing. It is, for me, the crux of the matter. Not quite there yet, may need a little more struggle.

Love love the new paintings, love and feel them.

Mary Addison Hackett said...

Thanks and yes, though my soliloquy about abstraction is more of a personal back and forthness with it, rather than not wanting to be a part of it. I totally love really good abstract painting and am still excited about it, but that particular day, I was overwhelmed, which was an unexpected response. Sometimes I'm like a kid with a new toy in the studio.