There’s a horrible artist-resource-bonanza brewing because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Horrible in the sense that it’s so necessary, and in the sense that so many of the relief funds out there require a type of pantomiming for aid that’s more than a little degrading. It’s a little like kicking a man when there down. What’s more, most artists are poor and under-resourced already, and so the seemingly sudden influx of aid and assistance, I don’t know, feels kind of funny. As if our lives as creatives, who struggle constantly, are only acknowledged when it seems like an emergency might snuff us all out for good. I have to say I appreciate the aid that has been offered and have applied to several assistance programs, and will continue to apply for more as they become available and I learn what’s all out there. However, I am left hoping that the world after corona will still be a world where art can thrive. I worry a lot that existential realities in life kills the imagination, even in the best of times.
I work in a big box hardware store, the orange one, and I see my fellow employees risking there lives for customers who would rather trade consumer short-term convenience for employee health. We do it of course for the pay and because there a need. Every day I think it’s sad that we’re put in this predicament. I wonder if our customers would feel guilty if one of us workers got sick because the store stayed open. Or would they just think, ‘we employees understood the risk’, and just go about their lives, as if we’re in the military? Should going to work mean risking your life? When I was a young man and a very religious Christian, (and more than a little sanctimonious), I often thought that no day was promised to us. I might say this in passing to a friend, or to a stranger I was trying to convert – I was a bad proselytizer which is why I think I came across so sanctimonious. Isn’t it funny to be living in an era where this type of thinking (a kind of end-of-days mentality) seems rational rather than the sputterings of a foolish upstart kid trying to impress their youth minister?
I’ve been operating the last two months under the presumption that I will survive and making plans for how I will continue to focus on my artwork, but I would be lying if I didn’t confess to thoughts about what would happen to me if I caught this virus, or got hit by a bus or anything tragic like that. When I go to these dark thoughts I usually cry a little because I am so lonely. I have very few friends or family. No lover or boyfriend. Few possessions, money, or accolades that would matter to the larger non-art world. I feel sad for the things I wanted in life, like a husband and children, and I regret being so selfish and fixated on my art, and being so immobilized by my fear. However, what usually gets me through is a sense that I have already punched way above my weight class in life, much further than where I might have been expected to. Additionally, no one could second guess that my resolve to live a life as an artist wasn’t sincere and attended to with gusto. I’m sure a tombstone would say something to that effect were I lucky enough to get one, so many COVID victims in New York, for example, are being buried “temporarily” in makeshift graves.
I had a very good remote session with my therapist yesterday where I confided this sense of resignation tinged with anxiety, and he did his best to calm my fears and recommended relaxation techniques. We spoke about our imbecile president and the governments delayed response, before sharing some coping techniques like breathing when nervous and taking news breaks. Both ideas I had been employing for weeks already.
This new normal makes me so aware of the preciousness of life. My friend Troy Brokensire sent me a picture of the moon the other night. As people who follow me know I have been doing paintings of the planets over the last two years, the moon being the first. I thought as I tweaked his picture with my iPhone just how special life is in general and how a very improbable set of circumstances needed to come together to produce life on this world. Because the universe is so large its just as improbable that the circumstances here are not a repeatable phenomena; nevertheless, it occurs to me that a sense of grace – especially in this time of pandemic – is required to just appreciate that we are.
I wanted to end by showing a beautiful piece of work that I discovered on Instagram from the Lebanese artist Fatat Bahmad (handle, fatat_art). It just made me happy and I wanted to share it, I don’t know the name of the piece.
I love it when something unexpectedly stirring peps me up when I want to instead feel low. That happened a few days back when the random setting on my Pandora played this EDM Dance group called “Jets”. They’re short CD called “The Chants” is fantastic, particularly the first two songs. The first piece also called “The Chants” and my favorite on the record, “U-N-I” are here as YouTube videos.
I’m still working on my Gnostic Confessions paintings. Heres an image of where my latest piece is as of yesterday.
I hope to write later this week on where I came up with the name of the series and what each of these pieces means. Until I next write everyone stay safe, and do be well.