Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Musing about Music

Music has been following me around again; it does this from time to time.

I've been telling it for several years now that I just don't have time for it any more, and that's true. And besides, there are so many other forms of expression that I'm so much better at creating ... despite having played the piano during my formative years and taking up guitar around age 13 and continuing to play on and off for the interceding thirty-some-odd years, despite being in two bands and writing a lot of songs and sometimes performing in front of other people ... well, I'm just not really very good. I have a great stage presence, but my guitarwork is sloppy, my singing voice is peculiarly low and remarkably limited in range, and my general repetoire is pretty restricted; I'd rather free-form a mess of my own than practice and actually master someone else's material. And we all know, after all, that it pays to focus on the things we're good at. For me, that's video and photography and video installation and hyper-intellectual theorizing about art.


But then there's the enjoyment thing. I enjoy music. I like noodling around with my Lake Placid Blue Fender Stratocaster and picking out stuff on my Ovation acoustic electric, I get excited when I've been playing enough for those little calluses on my fingers to remember themselves and start to re-emerge. I like trying to pick out riffs from songs I like, I like creating riffs of my own. I even like the physical trappings of music--my little Fender practice amp and my fat, heavy steel-reinforced Ovation hard shell guitar case are just purely wonderful objects.

And now I'm obsessed with the pink "Hello Kitty" guitar at Target.

It's a Fender, nominally ... one of the cheap Mexican-made Squires, so you know the sound will not exactly rock the Casbah. But by the same token, it could turn out to be very funky. I like funky, funky works for me. Funky hides a multitude of sins, and most of my artwork has a funky edge to it. During art school, some of my rather more, er, rigid classmates were continually turning up their noses at my 3-D work, muttering about refinement, until one night a teacher silenced them forever by announcing forcefully, "It's not a lack of refinement, it's funky. It's a style." (Thank you, Jeremy!)

I'm pretending that my obsession has to do with the fact that this is just a tremendous, odd, peculiar, spectacular OBJECT, that it appeals to my strong appreciation of the truly bizarre. But in fact, I suspect it's more about music sneaking close to me again, trying to whisper into my ear about how much fun it would be to put together a band for my next birthday-that-ends-in-a-zero, which is three years away.

I admit I'm considering it seriously ... both the band and the Hello Kitty guitar. Woe is me ... and those of you whom I will probably soon start pressuring to play in said band. You have three years to think about it. Everybody start ... now.

Friday, December 08, 2006

leaves and variation

I am ostensibly at work right now, at my job, my paying gig, the thing I do because I have an MFA and the gianormous student loan debt that came with it and a chronically underemployed spouse and a mortgage. I am not interested in enlightening the world through web development right now; on the way to work I saw a wonderous thing, yellow leaves swirling down off a tree like blessings, falling through the sky, and it made me want to take my video camera and lie under the tree and just shoot the swirling for 20 minute or an hour or as long as it would go on. I can see the video in my head, see how extraordinary it would be. That's how it is for video with me, I see the finished thing as I shoot, the transitions and changes already in place, the variations, the contextual nuances ...

But I had to come to work. It was a "work day." I have to make money, because ...

I cannot concentrate on my work projects, they all seem to be superficial and uninteresting--and only in part because they do in fact tend to be superficial and uninteresting. In my soul, I am lying under that tree on the corner of College and Dwight with my big heavy Sony turned toward the sky, enjoying the sensation of hurtling through space, hyperspace, only populated by yellow leaves and gray clouds rather than blackness and the pinpricks of stars racing by.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

reflections on an MFA past ...

First, a little blog on blogging ...

This is only my second entry to this blog in three months. OK, so maybe blogging is not my thing. I write a lot, but usually keep it to myself. Writing and discussion are how I hash things out--all things, whether personal or political or aesthetic (and let's be real, art is generally a combination of those three things)--but that means my writing is often not a "finished product." I'm still figuring out what I mean or what's going on or even sorting out my own opinion when I write. Cyberspace is often not kind to circular, unfinished documents.

To the matter at hand ...

I attended an artist's reception last night, that of a friend's MFA exhibition. Athough she began the program before I did, and now has finished just after me, we are cohorts in a way and are weirdly similar in our non-art interests and outlook. For some reason, her graduation feels to me like the closing of an era.

There was a good turnout and I spent a long time talking to other post-MFA friends I hadn't seen in months, many of us in different phases of depression, separation anxiety, or overwhelm. Some, like me, are working full-time in something that is not necessarily art but pays the bills in an effort to stay above the waterline, and cramming art and art projects into any residual space we can find. Others are taking a "trust that what I need will come" approach and have quit "paying" jobs to make getting their art out into the world their full-time job. Some aren't dealing with their art at all at the moment, trying to decompress and refocus themselves.

All of us are wrestling with the "what is success in art to ME?" question. But that's another post for another time.

Anyway, I came away from my evening understanding that we all seem to feel the same way, post-MFA, even if we are dealing with it differently. We find that we have to make time for community, for discussions about art and art-life, in a way we didn't have to before. But we have the opportunity to create something new--associations, connections, adventures together--without the annoyances that the graduate art program experience brings.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

a persistent sadness

My MFA show came down on Thursday. I'm not a kid with no sense of self-definition; I have a life, I have lots of projects that are ongoing, lots of things to do. It should have been no big deal.

It wasn't no big deal. I'm violently sad.

I'm thinking about the potential reasons ... one person suggested it was "loss of community," but that doesn't seem to resonnate. I was basically isolated the last eight months or so anyway. The people who were my community during that time still are, and will continue to be.

Another person thought maybe it was because "you don't know when you'll have another solo show," but that's not the case either, because my next solo show is already set for December.

I got other thoughts from other people, all similarly off-the-mark. So I'm trying to sort through this myself.

Here is what I've come up with so far:

Due to my crappy life circumstances over the last few months, the show took on extra meaning for me, became very special and became something of a safe place. It was one thing I knew I could control, and was the one thing in the whirlwind of crap going on in my life that I knew was really and truly representative of me, the real me, the core of me, the me that will still be there when all the drama subsides. There was also a romantic element to it, it felt really wonderful and fulfilling to see people actually engaging with my work, whether they "got it" or not, whether they even liked it or not.

Taking the show down meant removing that reminder of self, and also taking away that wonderful opportunity I had to do what really felt like offering love to the people who passed through...taking away also the opportunity for me to enjoy them accepting the gift, holding it, embracing it.

There were also people to whom I wanted to offer that gift, the gift of my work, of my seeing, who did not pass through the gallery over the last three weeks, for whatever reason. And the thought that they in a sense rejected this offering, this gift, is painful and saddens me. I don't understand why someone I had worked with extensively, for example, or someone I considered a friend, could simply choose not to come and see what really represented the culmination of three years of sometimes very difficult, very painful struggle, simply because they were tired or busy or just couldn't find room for it across three solid weeks of display ... well. You see what I mean.

This persistent sadness. I don't know quite what to do with it.