Of Mice and Art and Letting Go
Back in February (Remember February? Before all this other crap happened?) Sean and I discovered there was a major mouse problem in our attic. It began when he could hear all kinds of scratching through the walls and then we began to smell a very unpleasant odor. We had already had an issue with bugs, so we called an exterminator in to see what was going on. Long story short, we had a huge mouse problem on our hands, and it was really unpleasant and expensive to fix. The mouse problem also spilled over into my artwork that was stored in the attic. I lost several large paintings I had done in my twenties that I had never sold nor ever had a place for. Mice are small and seemingly harmless,,,, but they can be incredibly destructive if not caught in time.
The paintings in question were extremely large - 3 feet by 5 to 6 feet. I was not really ever into painting enormous paintings, but a gallery owner had told me I really needed to start painting that large, and desirous of a relationship with a gallery and the promise of an art career, I complied with her wishes. Over the decades in which I've carried these paintings around from one location to the next with me as I changed jobs, homes, spouses, one thing became crystal clear to me. I am indeed a painter, in love with art.... and painting in that large a format is just not for me. I believe that every artist has a natural scale in which they work best, and I've never felt that huge was mine. But what to do with these paintings? I even tried giving them away to friends, but no one ever wanted them because they were so huge. They were a little bit like an albatross around my neck. Even so, I felt as though they reflected a part of my life, and I just wasn't ready to part with them.
Flash forward to February 2020, and a big mouse mess, and here were these paintings, irretrievably damaged. The first step in remediating our issue involved removing everything from the attic, including those paintings. I realized that with everything going on that I had an opportunity now to inventory all of my art work over the years.... and that I now had to make a decision of what to do about those paintings from my twenties. And I decided it was just time to let them go. They had served whatever purpose it was I needed in my life way back then, and now they were hanging around like a skulking, stalking ex, and it was time for them to go. It was actually not as painful as I thought.
After that, I still had to deal with multiple decades' worth of accumulated artworks. Turns out I'm quite prolific, if not best-selling. In addition to all of the works of my adult life, my mother had been kind enough to keep all of the sketchbooks and art of my childhood. It has been really interesting going through my own art history, and seeing all the twists and turns my art has taken - and thinking about re-visiting some of those twists and turns - without making them three feet by six feet.
In a way, I feel as though this personal journey of letting go led some what naturally into my response to the current national crisis. Many decisions have simply been wrenched from my hands, as is true of everyone in the world currently. While I am luckier than most in still having a job and getting paid, I have had to let go of traveling about as freely as I would like. I have had to surrender to the quiet of my own home, my own studio, now surrounded by pretty much my entire artistic past.
I have decided that in order to be able to continue to make MORE art, I need to let go of a number of pieces I currently have. This means, I am going to host my own One Woman Retrospective Art Exhibition and Sale.... once we are off of quarantine. I want to unload as much as I can for several reasons. One of which is to unburden my husband and my family in the (hopefully far off) case of my demise of as many artworks as I can sell. Another of course is more entrepreneurial in spirit, but I will be open to all offers made on my works of art. It is time for a clearing. I was originally hoping to do this sometime in May, but as the lockdown continues I have to let go of expectations. The curve may be flattening, but it could rise again based on decisions made in the next few weeks.
The entire world is on pause. We have to be okay with that. An affliction whose actual size is much smaller than mice is holding us all back. This is a pause in which we can think deeply, make art, re-connect to memories, re-awaken old dreams - and let go of those things that no longer serve - if we so wish. I am exhaling through this in hope that the time in which we can move forward will be soon - and also knowing that at the end of I will be weighted down with less.
Spring is here. The rains still fall, making the grasses so green and the flowers bloom. There is yet hope. I leave behind that which does not serve me, and I look forward in anticipation.