This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things


It’s taken longer than I expected to get back to work here – life intervened and work and a hot spell we didn’t expect that has sapped our energy and dried up the gardens and left us to sit in whatever cool spot we can find and read for the duration.

I’ve lately been reading James Elkins’ What Painting Is, a book that uses the language of alchemy as a way to think about painting.  It’s fascinating, mysterious and, because Elkins is a painter as well as an art historian, full of truths about the painting life.

This passage struck me yesterday in a chapter titled “The studio as a kind of psychosis:”

” Sooner or later every one of a painter’s possessions will get stained. First to go are the studio clothes and the old sneakers that get the full shower of paint every day. Next are the painter’s favorite books, the ones that have to be consulted in the studio. Then come the better clothes, one after another as they are worn just once into the studio and end up with the inevitable stain. The last object to be stained is often the living room couch, the one place where it is possible to relax in comfort and forget the studio.  When the couch is stained, the painter has become a different creature from ordinary people, and there is no turning back.”

Even as a fledgling, I felt the shock of recognition.  “Psychosis” may be too strong a word, but I can’t argue with the description.  And since my studio takes up most of the space where I live (a 300 sq. ft apartment), well, the possibilities for paint and possessions are endless.

The nice neat corner I set up for the art when I moved in has expanded to encroach on the living area, the kitchen (counter?  what counter?) and all available wall space, although I’m fiercely defending the “bedroom,” otherwise known as a daybed in an alcove.

Time to get back to work now, but I’ll write more soon about how I’m approaching the “body of work” dilemma.  With a body, of course.

Happy painting!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s