It feels similar to 2012. Like the dawning of a new day.
That was the year that art reentered the frame for me after nearly a quarter century of my keeping it at arm’s distance. I recall the feeling of liberation that I felt, those first days and weeks after the shift. After having spent years creating things for clients, and now detached from such constraints, free to spin the Twister spinner and move in any creative direction I wished, it was amazing. And, as I had a day job at the time which covered our living expenses, I was able to make a clean break from the client-driven side work I did at the time in order to once again create for the sheer joy of creating.
Where does one go when they can go anywhere they choose? I suppose that might be a somewhat frightening prospect for some but for me, it wasn’t then and it isn’t now.
Only now, I have an even better ability to move as well as a much clearer idea of where I want to go, creatively.
In 2016, just four short years after the moment that ushered art back into my life, I resigned from my position at the college to have a go at being a full-time artist, affording me much more time and energy to do so. The current moment feels a little like that year as well, save for the attendant and thankfully short lived depression I went through at the time, perhaps primarily due to the abrupt change from engaging with others during the work week back to working, as I had prior to CC, largely solitarily in my private studio.
Another reason I feel a capacious freedom of movement is due to a greater potential to do so. In 2019, ground was broken on my new studio, with its long list of upgrades from my previous one – more room, more power, better lighting, running water, etc, etc. My kids, today, are all grown and nearly all out out the house. My wife has a successful private dyslexia tutoring practice, evening out the periods of time when, like the previous six months or more, I am creating artwork for an exhibition and not creating, at least not in a timely way, an income.
Not to mention a fuller comprehension within myself to understand the why’s and the wherefore’s of creating art, both universally and, more importantly, personally. By now, the iconography that I began exploring ten years ago, that of the human hand, is a well established idiosyncratic motif. Yet it feels like there are so many more things for me to learn, to say, to discover within the parameters of the subject matter.
And now, another wholly new “land” to explore has recently emerged: pure abstraction. The absence of iconography, of subject matter, of motif. Absent of meaning? Curiously, and somewhat unexpectedly, no. In some ways, the work is better able to overlay whatever thoughts, whatever topic, whatever interest, fleeting or enduring, that I choose it to.
Again, where does one go when they can go anywhere they choose?
Time will tell, of course. I would hope that despite having a somewhat clearer notion of the direction(s) I want to travel than I did ten years ago, I will always retain the freedom to “pack up and move”. That despite what must look, from the outside, like restriction or even constriction – like I’m stuck driving down a narrow motif highway with no off ramps in sight – I will, both in the macro and micro sense, always be able to go where I wish. Where it feels like the work is taking me.
Because, not to veer too far off topic, it often feels like creatively, I’m in the position my wife typically is when we’re exploring new locales by car: I’m usually both the driver and the navigator, leaving precious little for her to do other than to periodically hand me some food or drink and simply enjoy the journey.
Two days ago, on the very day our grandson William Burke Tirado, or Liam, was born, I turned 54. It’s an age when some, who haven’t already done so, are beginning a countdown to retirement. Not me. For me, and, I know, for so many others in the arts, if what we’re doing is genuinely engaging at the head, hands, and heart levels, we have no reason, wish, or plan to cut the journey short.
And for me, specifically – and I realize I’ve said this for the past ten years, but still it rings true – it feels like the journey is just beginning. Like I’ve definitely crossed the border into the unknown but know there is so much more to discover. While it might look to some like I have a well established career at this point, I don’t. It still feels nascent.
Well, to be perfectly frank, I think it primarily does because I have yet to attach my name to any commercial art galleries, though I’ve come quite close at times. Despite having a number of income opportunities primarily either selling work directly out of the studio, through art advisors, during exhibitions like my current one at a non-profit gallery, or via public art projects, I yet feel like joining the stable of a reputable gallery or galleries would be a noteworthy and desirable feather in my artist’s beret. Perhaps my thinking, here, is too traditional; too one-dimensional. But I do believe that galleries play an important role for artists and one that will continue, despite the veritable explosion of alternative options, virtually or otherwise.
And more personally, I know that being scheduled to have an exhibition in the not too distant future is a great way to keep me engaged in the work. For better or for worse, it’s how I seem to be wired – without such an end date, I can get too consumed in “busy work” – things that often undergird the art, while allowing the actual art making to slip.
And perhaps it feels incipient, too, because I’m not so attached, whether to an upcoming exhibition or, as was the case for two years, a public art project.
As when the journey began, ten years ago, I have the freedom to spin the needle and, if I’m not all that interested in where it lands, to spin it again.
So, while there are career milestones yet to be attained, and an expectancy that just over the horizon, some new and interesting vista will open up, I am enjoying the momentary feeling of detachment from a project. It, once more, begs the question:
Where do I want to go?