Sunday, November 9, 2008

Ben's Birthday

Twenty Five years ago I was where Tim is now ... South Korea ... but I had received news from home that it was time for Tim's little brother to be born. As quickly as I could, I arranged for leave and caught the next bird out of there.
Of course, being a very long flight, Ben had already been born while I was somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. When I got to the states I couldn't get hold of anyone. It took me many more hours to get from California to Florida. By the time that I got there I knew that my new son, Ben, had some serious problems. I was a wreck as I drove from Satellite Beach to Coacoa Beach to the hospital. It was very late at night and I hadn't had much sleep all the way from Korea, plus I hadn't been behind the wheel of a car in about seven months. It was one crazy drive through the rain slickened streets of the Eastern Florida coast.

Ben had some problems, to put it mildly, and was in an incubator in the ICU. My first sight of him was one that I'll never forget. He looked so fragile and delicate. My heart melted. The doctors couldn't give us much encouragement, but Ben fought his way through and has surprised us all ever since.

He is talented, caring, creative, and inteligent. One of the best put together people that I've ever known. I'm very proud of him.

Happy Birthday, Ben.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

November show

I did something that I hardly ever do this week. I called in and played hooky from work … two days in a row!! I needed the time off just to recuperate … but I also had to come up with a new show for the gallery. Fortunately, I have no lack of new work to show – having been producing stuff for years and sending it straight to the closet. The problem, as always, is matting and framing stuff. I was able to swap a few frames around and to find some others that fit the twelve pieces that I wanted to put up … all except one. That was kind of nice, really, to only have one frame to make. The last few First Fridays have found me scurrying around and framing a ton of stuff … spending money on frames and mat board, and stressing out. There was practically no stress at all this time. Things went smoother than I could have anticipated.
On Friday morning I drove through the thick November fog down into Spokane to the gallery. I’ve come to look forward to hanging my new shows now. I usually do it before the gallery is open and it’s very peaceful in there. I kick off my shoes, turn on my ipod, lay out all of my new work on the floor. Then I begin to methodically place the pieces on the wall, as if it were a twelve by ten foot puzzle.
This month my theme was simply to have a sample of all of the different work that I do; variety in both subject and medium. I incorporated a lot of the prints that I had put up last month. In fact, most of the prints that I removed from the wall, went into my standing portfolio, so that the work was still available to peruse and purchase.
The question of the meaning of it all didn’t nag at me the way that it can sometimes. I think that I’ve learned the meaning of life along the bumpy road that I’ve traveled. There’s nothing like laying in a hospital bed, staring at the ceiling with a bunch of wires and tubes running through you to bring that question to the forefront of thought. It has pervaded and persisted, nipping at my heels from time to time, staring me straight in the face at others.
Life changes came from my open-heart surgery eight years ago … I went back to school and finished my degree … I moved around the country, and finally made my way back to Spokane … and I’ve settled down more – the wanderlust rarely whispering in my ear. I’ve grown expedientially as an artist, I’ve produced some things that I never would have believed that I was capable of, and I’ve included an art form hitherto untouched by me (printmaking). But those were just changes. As meaningful as I may have thought that they would be, they really don’t add up to much.
The meaning in life, really, (to me, anyway), is being happy with one’s self and to know real love. Sounds simple and all, but, man, it’s tough to get there. My happiness, in a large part, comes from the very act of creating something. When I’m busy working, all of the minutiae of life just seems to flow away.
The question of “why do I work so hard at artwork, why do I do it at all?” is kind of a silly question, really. There is no huge, changing the world, philosophical reason. I’m an artist. That’s what those kind of people do. “Writers write” as the line from Throw Mama from the Train goes. And so, painters paint, and musicians make music, it’s as simple as that. The difference that art, in all of its manifestations, makes in the world is subtle – in and of itself. But the achievements of one artist are built upon by artists in following generations. Together art makes life just a little richer, just a little more interesting. Sometimes it does have a profound effect, and sometimes it’s just a momentary pause along the path.
I have stood in museums looking at paintings that just blew me away, and I’ve lived my life doing work that I have hoped would touch others too. I don’t delude myself that I’m going to touch the world or that I’ll get rich in the process. But there are those moments when it does come together.
At the First Friday art walk last night, I did touch a group of college kids who were doing the art walk as part of their course requirements at Spokane Falls Community College. I watched them from across the room and saw them become excited when they saw my work, and watched as they took pictures of it with their cell phones cameras. When they recognized my name on my badge about half an hour later, they became animated and spent quite a while talking with me and asking me questions. It was quite flattering.
Also, throughout the evening, one of the other artists, Mike F., would introduce people to me and guide them to my work with such devotion and pride that I had no idea what to do with myself. I was flattered and embarrassed, and, actually, perplexed. I suppose that we never see in ourselves what others perceive.
I went home very tired, but very pleased. I had sold some work … just a little print … but I’d also felt like my stuff had some merit, too. It had ment something to someone else. It’s real hard to see that when it’s holding a place leaning against a wall in the corner or tucked away with dozens of other art projects in the closet.

And the love thing … for years I had wandered and wasted a lot of time on “the search”. Finally, I’ve found it. It’s not the big, breath taking deal that Hollywierd makes of it – at least not all of the time. It’s a daily communication and time spent with someone who gets me, and in whom I’m interested and understand ... someone with whom my time matters and feels worthwhile – even if we’re doing nothing. She’s not a Barbie-doll, and I’m not G.I. Joe – we’re not the movie of the week. It’s a simple and wonderful, fulfilling love.
There's also the love of God. This is a very deep and personal thing for me. Everyone understands God in a different way ... I cannot explain mine, nor would I want to thrust it on someone else. I do know that having Him in my life has made a tremendous difference, and it's my hope that everyone comes to know Him and imbraces Him.
Another part of love, I’ve known for quite a while – the love of my children. My kids, even though they’re grown and gone off into the world, are still a constant in my mind and I feel their connection and love even if I’ve not spoken with them for weeks at a time.
There’s also the extended family – my sibs, who I don’t get to see as much as I’d like, parents, nieces, nephews, and so on – and Brenda’s family too … her parents and sibs have welcomed me into their lives in a way that really touches my heart.

Friends, I have few of – but the ones that I do have, I think of often, and they add to the richness of my life.
And then there’s Pfeffer, my little grey cat. One of my great joys is to come home and see her run across the yard to greet me; to pick her up and hug her, to feel and hear her purr.