Sunday, July 08, 2007

Everything old is new again ...

I have found myself over the last few months in "starting over" mode, as if some huge cycle was completing itself and I was rising from the bottom of the ocean to the crest of a wave, finally able to breathe, to feel the sun and see the sky.

And of course, it all has to do with art.

Last month, I went from 100%-time employment to 90%-time, which means I get two days off per month that I can devote to art. Almost immediately on making this arrangement, several other things fell into place, as though the Universe were applauding my commitment. It's too soon to say for sure whether all of the wonderful opportunities I seem to be presented with at this point will come to fruition. But it does seem the universe is in resonnance with me again, or I with it. Anyway, I'll tell you about two of them now.


I regard my "work" as my art, and my "job" as the thing I do during the day that makes the money I need to pay my bills. My "job" has been increasingly frustrating, in large part because I find myself anxious about having to be there when I know I should be focusing on art. I finally decided I was not going to be making innovative work, securing gallery representation, applying for grants and residencies, getting out to see artwork and keeping "playdates" with other artists if I had to continue to spend all day, every day, in front of a computer in an office. My new arrangement enables me to take, roughly, every other Monday off and I am spending that time on art in some form or fashion.

The drawback to 90%-time is, of course, 90% money. But I had so many new project ideas within a week of making this decision that I think it's money well-spent.

On my first 10%-time day, I went out to Pt. Reyes and revisited the trail that was the subject of my year-long walking and photo/video art project "Exposures," which was shown in the "With the Earth" project space at Gallery Route One (Pt. Reyes Station) in 2005; I updated the project with new video and sound work. My next two 10% days were spent moving into (drumroll) my new studio space. That brings us to ...

New Studio!

Almost immediately upon making the commitment to go to 90% time at my job, I found something I'd been looking for for several months: a wonderful studio space, perfectly sized for me at a price I could afford, less than half-a-mile from my house.

My old studio setting was, initially, interesting and edgy, weirdly balanced in its positive and negative qualities. It sat just behind Rosenblum Cellars, which would annually ferment grapes literally outside my front door. The building itself was an all-concrete bunker, formerly the power station for the electric trains that used to run thoughout Oakland; no drill bit was strong enough to carve enough of a hole in those walls to hang something, and they were painted an odd yellow color with blue trim. I had no running water (there was a hose across the parking lot at the back of Rosenblum that produced water smelling strongly of ... something not consumable) and I had to go into yet a third building to use the bathroom. The land it occupied was contaminated enough to be classified as a "brownfield" site, and was downwind from a crematorium. And it was a 20-minute drive from my house, albeit a relatively painless 20-minute drive.

My windows looked out on the Oakland Estuary. When I first moved in, I had an unobstructed view of the estuary and of the enormous container ships being turned around right in front of my window. On an average day, one would encounter a few guys driving forklifts or an occasional hard-hatted worker going by on a bicycle. I called it "Happyland," and I did indeed love it there.

But of course things changed. The construction of the West Coast's largest ship elevator and dry dock facilities 50 feet from my building changed my view to gigantic ships completely wrapped in flapping canvas tarps and the dozens of people in orange vests and hardhats whose job it was to work on them, essentially 7 days per week. The winery workers began to forget that I was there and to sit in front of my windows to take their loud afternoon smoke breaks. A new tenant in an adjacent building appeared and took over ALL of the parking spaces that had been so convenient for me. Heavy equipment was everywhere. And the general chaos level of the place increased by about 1000%. It no longer felt safe and comfortable, especially at night. So it was time to go.

My new studio began its life as a garage, then became a studio apartment, and is now an open space of about 325 square feet; it sits in the shared backyard of two large beautifully-kept Victorian houses in a quiet residential neighborhood. There are lots of windows, it is light and airy and painted a pleasant cool white inside. Immediately outside are trees and birds and an organic vegetable garden and a big back yard; the tenants who use the yard are young families and graduate students and older folks who proudly admit being hippies in the 60s. It has walls that I can hang work on, my own bathroom, and adequate on-street parking. It is a two-minute drive or a 12-minute walk from my home.

I made a lot of great work at Happyland, and I know the texture of the place influenced the work that was made there. The texture is completely different in my new space and I know it will change my work somehow. I'm not sure how that will play out, as I'm still getting organized and haven't actually made any work there. But I have decided to take on the role of the observer in this case; I will endeavor to notice and possibly document but not fight any changes that appear in my artistic approach, interests and output.

I hope I will learn a great deal more about myself and my commitment to art, which continues to suprise me with its intensity and significance.

Next time: more NEW stuff! Check back for pictures--I promise!