A couple weekends ago, Kim and I went to see the documentary, Who Does She Think She Is?, at Pacific Cinematheque. Our lunch, convo and company was fantastic, but the film itself touched on such sensitive topics for me, I’m not entirely sure it was a good idea for me. Even watching the trailer had made me upset, what made me think I should watch the whole movie?
The five female artists in the film struggle to maintain a balance between their art, work and their families. Three of the five women end up divorced. It’s tremendously painful for me to hear the stories of all these women and how many of them are considered to be so selfish. How creativity is stuffed between driving kids from school to soccer practice. It’s reality, I suppose, that you can never do the one thing you want to do to satisfaction… everything is tempered with everything else. I guess that’s what we call “life/work balance”. But what about considering the option of creating until burnout and then renewing yourself? With each time that you creatively push yourself to and over the edge, you expand your experience and your ability to see new and different things. Maybe this is ultimately unhealthy and unbalanced but still a way to be creative.
I remember a time when for months, I would work to exhaustion. I’d create things until 4 am when my contacts dried onto my eyes. And then all productivity would drop off to zero and I’d sleep or stare blankly at the screen. And then I’d repeat the highs and lows. Maybe this is considered manic and unhealthy… but it was also a time when I was unnaturally prolific in the quantity and quality of the work I was creating.
When I took my hiatus from dyeing and designing, I basically fell off the face of the planet… not just as a creative person, but as a person, period. I felt that by the end of my timeout, my sadness and angst was most related to not having and serving purposeful, selfless work. I feel that I am nothing without real work… maybe because without real work, I have no reason to be here. I guess I don’t mean work as in what you do to buy groceries or pay rent… I mean work that you set your hands to, work that has hope for something outside of yourself. And I whether I am right or wrong to do so, I deeply relate this kind of work to personal identity.
If I am not my work, then who am I? If I am not sweetgeorgia, not a dyer, not a knitter, not a designer, not a business person, not an artist… then who am I? I tell you, cocktail party conversations are the worst. Validate your existence in seven words, now. Go!
I like long walks on the beach, music, and I can eat a baked good in the amount of time it takes you to say “baked good”. There’s got to be more than that.
On Saturday, I happened to stumble upon the show at the Richmond Art Gallery called Observation of Wonder, a two-part installation by artist, Brenda Maag. From her statement, she says “Doilies are made by crocheting and, like much domestic textile work, crochet was considered an acceptable form of creativity for women in the 19th and 20th centuries. No longer in style, doilies have been abandoned in thrift shops which is where I bought them for next to nothing. Observation of Wonder is a two-part installation made with a collection of these recovered handmade doilies … The installation represents a new appreciation of the beauty, symmetry and mathematical complexity of the doilies and invites viewers to see nature’s phenomenal diversity reflected in human creativity.”
If you get a chance to take a look, drop by the Richmond Art Gallery before the show closes on May 17th. The conservatory with the doilies is interesting to walk into and the beauty of these humble homely textiles is made accessible. What if your “acceptable form of creativity” had no value in society a hundred years from now? Would you still do it?
I struggle every single day with the idea of meaningful vs. financially satisifying work. This idea of the sexy job vs. the ugly job. Maybe I see this in every instance… the want to vs. the have to. I don’t know… I can’t be the only one that has these thoughts. Or has everyone already found meaningful, soul expanding, life work and I’m still knocking at the door?
Thanks for everyone’s encouragement on my little cardigan sweater! I’ve been knitting it again, this time in sportweight and trying to alter the shaping a little bit. I think I’ll work a bit on this sexy job this morning before I head off to my ugly job.
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