from the Colors of Jazz collection
©2020, Molly Larson Cook
24″x30″ Acrylic/mixed media
For an artist, looking through a fine art magazine is like walking into a banquet hall. Where to start, what to see, when to stop. What’s new on the table? Do I dare and do I dare to try this or try that?
My artist friend, Peggy Fischbeck, one of the talented Liberty Station artists in San Diego sent me a recent copy of American Art Collector as a thank-you for a small writing contribution I made to the publication’s Liberty Station focus piece. And the doors of the banquet hall opened wide.
During my recent years in San Diego, I spent a lot of time in the Liberty Station Arts District where I taught writing and also had a solo art show. I happily schmoozed with both writers and artists and, despite being happy in Oregon, I miss those old friends and the camaraderie of our time together.
Artists and writers are so often thought to be, so often bill themselves as, too often deliberately crave a kind of Bohemian distance from the world, from engagement, from plain old ordinariness.
I did it myself as a writer in my Life Before Art, not to be a Bohemian but because it’s hard to put the words down with other words ringing in your ears. In Maine where I lived alone in a cottage in the woods along the Presumpscot River and worked on novels, I was known affectionately as “the Hermitess.”
Artists sometimes tend toward the Bohemian extremes, not so much isolating to be hermits, but to set themselves apart as “artists,” or simply working alone in studios. Musicians don’t do this. I met a professional studio musician years ago who had just moved to my city, and his big complaint was not finding “anyone to hang with.” That’s the ticket. People to hang with.
Back home in Oregon where I’ve landed as an artist rather than a writer, I’m finding those people, and it’s such a joy to talk about even the smallest things with another artist. You get inspired to try new things. Make a small change or two in your studio. Enjoy their success. Learn about the struggles that are not unlike your own. And these are not usually hand-across-the-brow apocalyptic struggles, just the ordinary – staying on track, making time, marketing the work – the ordinary.
My studio is in an unusual place along a corridor of offices housing various kinds of therapists and business people. I was granted an exception when I promised not to spill paint on the floor or make any other kind of irreparable mess in the space. I don’t have artists to talk to here, but I do have my hall-mates who all love the idea that an artist is among them. One day soon, I’ll have an informal private showing for them. They tell me they’re looking forward to that and the possibility that I might hang some of my work in the hallway.
There’s also a big studio space on the ground floor of my building that houses an art program for people with many kinds of disabilities. I am often inspired by the work there and by watching the industrious and diligent artists as they sit at the big tables every day. Art may not be able to make a lame person walk, but it is quite capable of healing in other deeply important ways.
Finding our tribe, our company of artists or as Kurt Vonnegut once wrote, our karass of people we are meant to be with is a happy circumstance. It doesn’t happen overnight, but you know these people when you meet them – and they know you. Finding them builds your confidence, reminds you that you and your art have a place in the universe even if it isn’t selling at Sotheby’s. Yet.
My renewed sense of belonging after a year in Mexico where my work and I were outsiders is strong. I’ve lined up a solo show for the month of October here and will be part of the community art show later this month at our lovely Corvallis Art Center. I’m making contacts and taking the work of marketing in stride because these paintings are not going to sell themselves.
I appreciate and learn from every other artist whose work I see when I visit the galleries. And I’m grateful to be part of an art community that rocks.
2 thoughts on “People to Hang With”
Peggy, it’s wonderful to read your words about the artists at Liberty Station…and yes, sometimes isolation, sometimes a community. We’re all in this together!
Molly, I’m a bit late getting to read all the mail in the in-basket. Thanks for the shout out! Colleen shared the magazine article and ad with Board Members this morning, and they were impressed. That’s a real mark of success for us! And a victory for the artists working to make the right things happen.
I also like your comments about having a community. Ours expands and contracts as artists come and go. New people refresh us in many ways. But like the old song, “Turn, turn, turn,” there is a time and a season. Occasionally one needs isolation. Other times, it’s good to be part of a supportive community.
All the best, Peggy