It’s done. The art is hung, for better or worse, and it’s not a thing I have to worry about anymore.
The recovery phase can begin, in which I devote myself to things like housework, eating, working, and sleeping. I get to live like a human again.
What I put up is a series of pen and ink figure drawings intended to highlight moments of vulnerability in human life. These moments fascinate me, and when they occur in public view, they are often silent, tucked away out of the spotlight. You have to look for them, to be alert and receptive, since they occur at any time, in any place.
I tried to strip away any sense of identity from the figures, leaving them without clothing, without hair, without faces (though the structure of the face is represented in some to prevent them from looking unfinished). As I was drawing nudes, I wanted to eliminate as much as possible the sexual nature of the figures without eliminating gender (I’m sure I’ll talk more about gender later), so the figures appear without genitals, and the feminine figures without breasts. Some have told me that this leaves the figures looking somewhat disturbing and unsettling… and I’m okay with that.
The kindest feedback that I’ve received on the set came from my brother, who said that he thought the pieces were important; that they were honest, and non-aspirational. That’s a thing that I was thrilled to hear.
I said that I would provide pictures of the work, so I’ve included a cell phone photo here. This is one of the six works in total, just to give you an idea of what I’ve been working on:
I cannot communicate effectively how glad I am to be done with this process. I have made art before and I have hung art before (though never an entire set all my own), but to have had to do this in the face of the obstacles of the last few months was an experience that I hope to not repeat. I was buying pieces of illustrator’s board one and two at a time, as I could afford them, and working on these pieces during the few hours I had each day not already devoted to paying work. I was sleeping when I could and eating when I had time, and I attribute the recent worsening of my concussion symptoms to the lack of rest. All of this had to be accomplished in a state of wretched sobriety deemed necessary by the medical men overseeing my recovery.
In fact, the original plan had been to produce around double the pieces, and the sketches had included plans for several small pieces highlighting particularly expressive parts of the body. But I lost those sketches; I lost all but two of the original set, and had to start from scratch on the rest. So while there are things I would like to have been able to do that I wasn’t, and things that I would like to do differently, I think that given the obstacles I’ve faced it’s probably not too bad a showing.
I’m not going to pretend that this process wasn’t terrifying for me… it’s the first time I’ve hung art in public since I was a sophomore in high school. As I was walking to the shop, my shoulders were hunched under a tension that felt like burning. But on the way home, I was taken by a feeling of warmth and relaxation that reminds me of drinking. I’m sure the feeling was only remarkable in contrast to the terror, but it was remarkable all the same.
I hope it’s well-received… I hope it touches people, and I hope it makes them think about the people they see around them every day.
Now, the house is in a terrible state, having been neglected for so long that I expect the EPA to drop in any day now. The mailbox is probably overflowing, and the cats are out of food. I need to devote my time now to these things, and to the process of finding a third job so that I can make sure that my bills are paid. I need to pay more attention to my writing; I haven’t touched the novel for months, and it deserves my attention.
It will be so nice to go to bed tonight not worrying about whether I got enough done and how much I have to get done tomorrow, to enjoy taking a hot bath rather than just getting in long enough to maintain personal hygiene standards, and it will be nice (eventually) to not live in a filthy, stinking mess of an apartment. It will be nice to have the pens and pencils and bottles of ink put away in an orderly state, rather than living on my dining room table in a state of constant use and disarray. It will be nice, in short, to just be a human again.