Yesterday something crazy happened. I found my new go to answer for the “what do you do?” question. It’s taken me 42 years to come to the point where I can say it and yesterday in the company of strangers I said it for the first time with intent and purpose in the open air. And I am going to say it again because fuck it… I’m an artist. As many of you know I have been a stay at home mom for the past five years and jobless since I lost my position as a manager of a print publishing company back when the crisis of 2008 took down many good people. I had to fire well over a dozen people that worked for me and that I personally hired and then myself. That. Was. Not. Fun. That loss put in motion a huge downward spiral for me that I have been slowly but steadily rising out from the ashes. Thanks to my husband, my kids and the fact I never stopped “making stuff” over these intense years of raising my children. But “I make stuff” or “I’m a stay at home mom” has never been exactly the way I have felt comfortable defining myself. In fact those answers for better or worse have kind of sucked balls in my mind. Totally not judging anyone that uses those answers but I didn’t realize until yesterday how much they really don’t all define who I am. “Country Manager” never quite cut it either. In fact they all kind of hurt in their own way to say…or even just to think to myself, which is more often the case as I never go out and hardly ever get asked what I do because thank God I live in a place where for the most part nobody really cares. Love you Italy.
But yesterday I made a decision. Walking my way through the rain and thundershowers of a Florence afternoon I asked myself that question that I knew would come up at my first attendance of the Firenze Drawing Club. “What do you do?” Fuck “house wife”, fuck “maker of things”. Those things are me certainly and with gratitude but not all of me. “I’m an artist” I thought and that is what I am going to say. After 42 years I can say it. I have studied fashion design and painting, have had hands dusty with pastels and charcoal and dirt, I have glazed and fired and made things explode and made things come to life and made big mistakes and made ugly things and pretty things, and pretty things and really, really ugly things that are almost pretty …but they aren’t. I have taught myself to metal smith, and make dresses and beaded the tiniest beads until my eyes bleed, I have written stories and poems and water colored over them around them and for them and then lost them all into puddles of mushy paper. And there is so much more, so much more that doesn’t even matter. But it does matter.
Do I have an art Degree? No. Do I have a portfolio? Not really. Have I shown in a gallery? No again. Does that matter to me now at 42? I will say no again for the fourth time. Do I have my doubts of being a “true” or “real” artist? Yes, every day for 42 years plus one day and counting. I know those doubts are going to be here for a while…maybe forever, but they better get used to me telling them to go fuck themselves.
So yesterday, finally, on my 42nd birthday I found this tiny rabbit hole of a door and went through it. Wisteria blossoms brown and purple grey battered to the ground under my feet. There was a secret garden just below the studio where we were to meet. And this walled over grown paradise was dripping, glowing and glorious from the rain…bird song and green, green, green, just everywhere green and wet and dripping at the golden hour. I climb the tiny zig zag concrete steps up to the studio, a voice calling me up. Inside I see how the space was once an old green house and when I say old I mean Michelangelo old. A long marble table flanks the window, orchids in simple pots rest in place as they always have. Rain tip taps the glass ceiling and soft floral scents. And yes artists sitting around a wooden table drinking wine and tea and bubbly with sweet kind faces. I put down my heavy bag and took my seat.