So- this is the longest I have ever lived anywhere in my life. 20 years!!
I still remember our frantic 3 day trip out here, looking high and low for a house to rent or buy for our impending move from Maryland.
Last month, I helped a local land trust celebrate their 20-year anniversary of working on land conservation in Northern Colorado. And I’ve been thinking about my own history as well. Having a helper in the studio scanning slides that go back more than 20 years ago; preparing for the annual two day studio tour, and contemplating what treasures I still have hidden away in drawers and paintings racks must have set off some sort of nostalgic chain reaction in my brain.
At the same time, I’ve been realizing many artist-types I know in town are up to 20 years younger than me. Woah! and because of this, there’s a dissonance between what I want to accomplish now in my career and what other artists do. It’s just that we are at different intersections, looking at different destinations on the map.
I came here with my family, after bouncing around the country for a few years. First, finishing grad school in Iowa, heading out to Washington state for an informal residency at a former professor’s house, then teaching at colleges in Kentucky, Virginia, and near Washington, DC….. I got an offer to head west, and another round of packing and moving ensued.
I ended up teaching full time in the drawing area of Colorado State for 6 years, and then decided that tenure did not call to me, so I quit. Yeah I know, !!!??? throwing long term security down the tubes? But in a rather soul-crushing environment, I’m convinced my work would have suffered. (I did go back for a few terms of part time teaching, because that was the part I did miss.)
When I quit teaching full time, it was great weight off. I had more time to paint finally. I think it was a great time for my work, and career. There was a quirky little space behind a used furniture store that was my studio. I exhibited in several commercial galleries and universities, was selling work regularly, did visiting artists gigs, won competitive arts fellowships, even tried my hand at the Cherry Creek Arts festival.
But…while I wasn’t looking, some things were shifting.
First- dot.com bubble bursting, (bad news if your primary gallery is in Seattle) then galleries began closing, recession-induced malaise began creeping in.
Previous to this, I had not been interested much in having anything to do with the local public art walks, open studios, etc. That changed a bit when I rented a space in a (then) vibrant art space, and suddenly had access to other local artists and people walking through the building every First Friday. I began selling my own work. Over time, I ended gallery affiliations, and began a process of re-tooling.
Now, I’m happily “self-representing” my work, learning and using new skills. I try to find good homes, whether public or private, for what I create. I ponder having too many pieces of art work lingering around when I check out. I don’t care about gallery representation. I paint what interests me, but don’t have to churn out an arbitrary number of pieces each year to ship off to an unknown future.
If I get old enough, I may put a sign out by the curb…..”free art to good homes”, or have a really colorful bonfire, or put them up on the walls of a skilled nursing facility. The work will have already served its purpose, which is taking me on my own visual journey.
Oh yeah. The cat? Our 20 year-old Lily, who hangs in there, despite kidney disease and 6 years of daily infusions to keep her functioning. Together, we make adjustments, we have set-backs, we take naps in the sun, and we poke around in the dirt.
Come see us June 2 and 23rd during the free Fort Collins studio tour, and help us celebrate 20 years of being here.