Becoming an Artist

Urban Artist

At an early age (in the 60’s) I imagined myself as a famous artist being interviewed by a TV reporter. I was known as the ‘Artist’ in the family, but never made art except drawing Xmas cards or paintings of photographs for Xmas or birthday gifts.

In elementary school, as I recognized the presence of injustice and suffering and I could only conclude that God had gone absent from the world. And, it seemed no one else noticed or even cared, so I decided to cover for God until he returned (we weren’t even religious!)

Time came to choose a college and major so I decided to ditch the girl’s ‘rulebook’ and follow the boy’s manual for a getting a good life. I was going to be an architect and build modular, small scale, kit houses— and ennoble the shabby mobile home. Before the first year of college was complete, architecture had me baffled. It didn’t seem there was any chance I would be taught how to make manufactured homes so I eventually switched majors to Industrial Design (they knew assembly-lines). Five years later I started a consulting business called Catfish Productions in Silicon Valley and designed computer housings and medical equipment. I made good money, worked hard and played harder until it all seemed embarrassingly narcissistic.

Fast forward to agreeing to have a child and be a full time mother. I became a Seventh Generation devotee (saving the world for our children’s children’s … children) and moved to the high mesa in Taos, built an Earthship, lived off grid and walked self-righteously lightly on the Earth. But that wasn’t enough, I became a raw vegan, moved to the rainforest in Hawai’i, drank and washed with rainwater, rode bikes, homeschooled, hunkered down to create a permaculture food forest, hunted, butchered and brined feral pig (no longer a vegan), milked goats, let our livestock roam, and took back our proxies ala Wendell Barry. We even grew and made medicinals and created a local currency.

At last, we were finally better than most everyone at tip-toeing on the earth (or less self loathing for being humans apart from nature). However being pious judgmental, bitter activists in the church of being against anything there was to be against to save the earth, was exhausting and antisocial.

Fast forward … child grown and in college, divorced, the 22 acre sustainable farm and intern program in Hawai’i sold and I was selling the last of my belongings. All I could see was a clean empty slate before me. Overwhelmed at starting all over again, I wished for an event so powerful that I would forever measure my life as either before that moment or after: a sign to tell me what would be my next chapter in life.

Literally, in that moment, walking across the street with a backpack full of cast iron oil expeller gears, on my last week in Hawai’i, I was suddenly struck by an SUV driven by a nineteen year old uninsured driver.

In the ambulance I was actually giddy. Strapped to a board, my vital signs beeping along, I boldly declared I would devote my life to Art (once I was able).

Today, (mostly able) I do see my life in two segments and call my ‘before’ life, “The Fix-It Years: becoming the best me and saving the world.” My ‘after’ life is shaping up to be, “The Goal-less Years: becoming the least me and making that my only business.”

Making art, is when I mostly lose myself and my mind let’s go. I wake up with a smile in the mornings and notice I’m in my underwear already painting before thinking to make my coffee.

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