Happy Independence Day. Or, for some of you who’ve forgot what today is all about, Happy Firecracker Day! Now please stay out of my neighborhood so I can get some sleep. And while I’m thinking about important documents, that brings me to the main reason I haven’t been around lately. I was rewriting my memoir (yes, again) and have been focused on that for the last six weeks. It’s been a good way to distract myself from all the dumpy doldrums I’ve been in for almost a year.
I’ve also been getting used to the new medication regimen. I don’t like being on so much medication, but some of it is temporary. I’d like to think that anyway. I did manage to go off of a pain medication on my own and I’m proud of myself for that. It was difficult. But it’s been hard managing my pain ever since. Some of the other meds, like for my brain cooties, might be a life-long daily swallow. I’m still not sure. It’s fine if they are, I just hope I won’t need all of them.
As far as the art goes, there’s been absolutely nothing going on. No action, and I keep thinking and saying that this isn’t me. If I don’t start finding something to do soon, maybe it will be me. I haven’t even moved on those little art books either. I know I’ve been writing and that is art, but it’s not the same. I was making time for looky-art when I was working on Shrapnel before. And now that I am finished with the book, it’s not even like I have any “excuses.” (By the way, like how it’s no longer “visual art?” Now I hereby call it “looky-art.”)
I put “excuses” in quotes because I don’t see them that way anymore. I feel free from that lately. There’s no superego to answer to. Maybe something aged me, or something clicked within all the letting go I had to do in writing a memoir, but I’ve finally given myself that break I’ve need for a long time. Forever. Now I am looking for inspiration, like watching butterflies or something. While I was depressed I was wondering if I even had any anymore. I know I’m doing better in the mental department because I’m at least interested in being inspired.
I recently felt inspired just flipping through the photos on the Craig Krull Gallery site thinking about all the many creative people that have shown there through the years and how Craig is drawn to such a vast array of voices. That inspires me. He inspires me. I feel like I am given a really rare opportunity with him. Most artists are not trusted just to be true to themselves. I feel like he’s got my back.
The first time Craig ever came over to my house, before working our way back into my studio (which is the garage), the first thing that jumped out at him was an artwork behind my TV. The house is filled with a collection of so many other artists, it’s really easy to get sidetracked for hours while getting a tour of the layout of the place. I wond up talking about the pieces, the artists or how I acquired them. The long horizontal plank behind the TV I’ve always just called a “decorative” piece. It’s one of very few things made by me displayed in the house. I’ve never considered it “art.” Just a long redwood plank I found when he first moved in that was left over from the deck. I didn’t want to put “art” behind the television, but there needed to be some color above the TV and between two sconces. So with a sander, a Dremel, hammer, awl, scraper, a drill and some oil paint, I made something, but I don’t know what.
Anyway, people, like Craig, come over and like it. They ask me who did it. I suppose since Craig came over, he’s inspired me to take another whack at it. I even have more planks of varying sizes in one corner of the garage, but have not done anything with them. I’ve even hauled them out to Joshua Tree intending to work on them once. I haven’t feel like it…yet. The idea still inspires me though.
Another idea that still inspires is one I proposed to the City of Los Angeles for their annual artist’s grants this past granting cycle. I’d been waiting with bated breath for a status answer to see if I was going to start working on some semblance of it. If I won, I could pay for it as my first large scale works. If not, I would still do it, but they just wouldn’t be as big, nor exactly as I stated in my original proposal. I’d have more room to deviate from the plan. I could go with the flow, if you will. I also wouldn’t be required to hold the work back. I could exhibit them whenever I felt like it. The grant recipients were supposed to be notified in May, but alas, we all found out very recently.
So, needless to say, after applying for the 2017-2018 City of Los Angeles Master Artist’s Grant, I did not get it. I’ve been applying for that grant for 12 or so years in a row. This last cycle, I really had the “goods,” more so than ever before; I had a strong body of work, I was a recent Wynn Newhouse Award recipient, had two solo shows, one major one with Shulamit Nazarian, Plus I submitted the movie I made with Jonathan and Susan. I also had stellar reviews from Peter Frank in Artillery and Megan Abrahams in Whitehot Magazine, and had a great recommendation letter from Kim Abeles, a past recipient. I was also able to submit a full color catalog as one of my supplemental items, which is a beautiful presentation of my 2015 spring show. I’ve been working in the City of LA my entire life and have been a part of the community – as much as I could be, anyway.
Anyway, I decided I won’t be applying again. Not out of spite or because I’m a sore loser. I have stacks and stacks of rejections from over the last 25 years and am well used to being rejected. A veteran looser. It doesn’t sting that much anymore. Sure, some rejections feel worse than others. I’m not going to lie. But I swear I don’t feel broken up about it after a night of sleep, even for the ones I had the highest hopes for. I can count on one hand which those were, and they were seemingly in my grasp, and I failed to get them. Damn!
The COLA is no longer on the table for me because I’m not going to have this perfect storm in place again. Not in a way where I can fairly compete. For one thing, a large percentage of their scoring weighs heavily on merit. It’s a very competitive grant and all the materials you submit need to be relevant within two years of the application date. Mine fade away and become stale dated by the 2019-2019 cycle. By the time I will have a new body of work to submit, I will be the big five-oh and another two years worth of MFA graduates will have moved into having their 15 years of experience, so now I’d be competing against my peers with degrees, plus younger ones with degrees, perhaps even more wildly relevant. I’m just not going to get this slim-to-none chance grant, and there’s only a one in 100 chance. What was I thinking?
I think it’s time to accept the reality of my contributions to the Los Angeles art scene. You can be doing a lot for a few years here or a few years there in different parts of the city and nobody knows what you’re up to or what you did. It’s a huge sprawl. And sometimes if you know the exact right people, you can have your finger on the pulse. At the same time when I wanted to be a part of making changes and being involved, in Hollywood, Santa Monica, San Pedro — donating time, art, energy, etc., I just as badly wanted nothing to do with crowds, groups, clubs, and people. You can never make everyone happy when you’re out to please everyone. You’ll be the one suffering.
I know all this sounds like I’m on a sour grapes rant. But winning the COLA has never been about the money — truly. It’s also never been about “status,” either. And not that this reason is more lofty, but for me it was all about acknowledgement from Los Angeles. That I was born and raised here, and that I participated. I contributed. I made a teeny tiny scratch. So yeah, the rejection is like a kick in the crotch: You’re not what you ever thought you might have been. I mean, I’m just being candid here. And what other artist talks about this stuff on their blog? It’s all, I’m doing good. I’m doing great. I’ve got the world by the balls and exhibitions shooting out of my ass. I’ve even been in that position at times. It doesn’t mean anything. Nothing like that lasts forever or continues in an upward trend. I guess I learn and keep learning to roll with the punches.
As everyone that reads up on me/this, the book has had more meaning for me than anything else. I may have rewritten it countless times, but every time I have, I have learned something new about myself and like the book better. It was not easy to write, and every time I thought about publishing it in the back of my mind, I’d pull the reins back on what I’d reveal. I had to keep going back and look fear in the face. That was more challenging than anything I can describe. But in the end, I feel I have an honest book. And I have it without the shame of being vulnerable. That’s progress.