Monday, March 24, 2008

I forgot to mention this earlier

But I'm moving to a really nice space in the valley. It is the house my friend is having to abandon, and I've been remodeling like mad to try and get it ready to be moved into. It still smells a little doggy in there, even though we've used a high PSI water gun on it, dumped enzyme and mopped in something like five times now. I'm going to go over it with a baking powder paste sometime very soon and call it done.

The exciting thing, other than the fact that there's enough room for all of us to have a room (we are currently 2 large dogs and five humans in almost 600 square feet), is that the space was once a woodworking studio and has a large studio space attached to it.

Which means I can take my paints back out of storage. I had them out for a little bit, then had to put them up because of my son. Now I have a permanent space for them to stay, so the only thing I have to do to stop painting is wash and somewhat tidy the space, instead of having to pack everything up, including the drafting table, between times.

I have a love/hate relationship with my paints. My mother was a portrait painter, and I have had extensive training via tutors and art classes in visual art. I have a love for creating things that has stood the test of two kids, two husbands who saw my distraction as I painted as competition with the relationship and messed things up accordingly (including the last husband getting in between me and the easel and whimpering that I never pay attention to him any more. For the record, my response was not what I was thinking, 'Jesus, I don't bitch when you play video games for a week straight after work instead of cleaning anything or talking to me.' I asked him if he wanted a date night, so that I could finish what I was doing and he could still get the attention he craved. It did not work out well.)

However, as I said earlier, Mom was a portrait painter. Some of the ugliest moments I ever had with her were as a result of the frustration which comes with trying to do something before the paint dries and being called away repeatedly. I'm not justifying it, but I understand it. The middle kid once called me away from the final touch ups on my portfolio/final for the semester. I went to get her a drink, came back and she had put black hand prints, in acrylic, on a whole semester full of watercolor, oil, acrylic and pencil compositions, all 35 of them. I sent her to her room and threw my shoes at the wall, then cursed solidly for about twenty minutes. And yes, I checked on her periodically.

But I didn't do anything to her, which is more than I can say for mom, though to my knowledge, I never defaced any of her commissions.

My father kept telling all of us that artists were whores, and that any artist who takes a grant is an unsuccessful whore. Also that art wastes everyone's time. As an adult, I wish I had the temerity to ask about his girlfriends, but I know that would have gotten me beaten sideways. The fact that he kept muttering it as he paid for the lessons speaks to my mother's persistence and his passive-aggressive streak.

Of course, this was the same man who took a swing at me over my math homework (I demanded to know what a number was before I did anymore math; since I was in his college algebra textbooks in junior high, I figured I was far enough ahead to be let in on the secret.) He took to smacking the back of my head, occasionally bouncing it off the table and homework, if I didn't come up with the answer fast enough or it was incorrect or otherwise not what he wanted. I have had a math phobia since then, and for some bloody reason my math professors tend to want to stand just behind me, in the same position. I have had to leave class to heave in the bathroom after quizzes because of this.

I have an unconscious association between the insane behavior my mother indulged herself in and painting, which makes it very difficult for me to paint, since I feel the urge to start screaming and burning things as soon as I pick up a brush. This is sad, because somewhere around here, I have a bunch of awards for it. I might have thrown them away, I can't remember. I went through a stage where I tried to remove all traces of myself. Fortunately, I did not find all the pictures and school records, or this would make for a less substantiated autobiographical university experience.

The thing I think is the most interesting about all this ilk of experiences is how it is handled. Most people, to my view, are a patchwork of problems which they must figure out how to deal with and get by with, despite their shortcomings. It's how the shortcomings are compensated for that makes it interesting to watch people go. Because I now have room, and to some degree, time, I can go back to painting, even though it makes me ill (the same way I forced myself through extra math as an undergrad for the express purpose of dealing with that phobia; god help me, the last professor was a Marine drill sergeant in his earlier life, and I nearly blathered myself into the ground before the class was over. He met with me outside class to suggest to me that I should never take math again, since I was obviously not gifted in this area.)

Eventually, I will break that association and be able to create with a whole lot less anxiety. It'll be great.

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