Ten years ago I was living in Brooklyn. Painting in a small living room my artist roommates and I used as a studio. I have a visceral memory of my body craving the movement a big canvas would afford me. I would sit hunched over my desk and think, “if only I could move my arms like this,” and then envision making broad sweeping strokes. But there was nowhere I could go to move my body like that while working. No room for canvases of the size that would allow me such freedom. And I had no idea what moving “my arms like this” meant. Or what would happen if I tried. So I kept having the thought, but I kept it close and shushed it often. Most likely the urge predated even Brooklyn and the cramped style of New York City living simply forced the issue to the surface. It’s amazing to look back and see the wisdom we carry around, isn’t it? Wisdom that is simply adrift until we’ve built the proper container for it. I shake my head at how long it took me to connect the dots, but holy holy is the gratitude that they did connect after all.
Two years ago I was talking about my creative practice with Carol, my astrologer, who also happens to be an artist. I lamented that despite wanting to be an artist my whole life long, I struggled to get myself into the studio. STRUGGLED. I was working from my sunny basement in the home I own. Surely, for a homebody, a home studio would make working a joy. But still, it mostly felt like punishment. If I wanted to paint, why was I always stalling, always making excuses, always cringing at the thought of getting myself off the couch or out of bed to my desk? Maybe I loved the idea more than the practice? Maybe I had built my whole life around a fantasy about what it meant to be an artist? Maybe I was lazy? These ideas sickened me. And I had given them only sidelong glances for years. But when I could finally say, “maybe I won’t be an artist after all” without crying or throwing up, a small corner of my heart broke, and then I felt some space open. I had a little freedom to move and explore.
I told Carol all of this. She said, “drawing might not be sensual enough for you…let’s look at the Sun, Mercury, Venus. My experience of all my Taurus clients is, that they really have to chew it, and taste it, and smell it…my suspicion is…it’s just not visceral enough. With all these planets in Taurus it has to turn you on physically. Maybe the kind of marks you want to make you haven’t met yet…get the brush out of the way and fingerpaint for a while. Taurus is in the body, in the house of the body.” (My stellium of Taurus planets is in the sixth house, for any of you who study astrology.) She suggested some new materials, some new methods. And, tentatively, I began to experiment. I put down my brushes and began to paint with my hands. It was good, but I was still so conscious of the mess I was making. Then I took off my clothes.
Slowly, I let go of my own expectations about what it meant to be an artist, to make work. After years of being told to stop working so tight and having zero ideas about HOW, some light finally fell on me. I moved my desk out of my studio. I let my body go. And all of a sudden I was “moving my arms like this”. And then all I wanted was to work bigger and messier and why would I ever stop painting when painting felt so good?
Some of my arriving here is the result of desperation, some of it faith. And the whole thing is so much more complex than I can say. Arriving in this space was only possible because of so many other searches, so many quests. Only possible because I asked so many wise people for guidance. It was years of flailing and failing and aching at the seeming futility of it all. And then, it was everything I’d ever wanted my creative work to be, and nothing I had ever expected.