I think sometimes you have to just sit in your studio and force yourself to engage - even if you don't want to - just to get into the flow of working. Today is that day for me. I plan on an afternoon of coffee and/or tea, sketchbooking, and hopefully some painting. I can't wait for our shower to be fixed so all of the things that normally live in the bathroom can go back to their appropriate home. The refugees have overstayed their welcome.
A couple of days ago I visited the Tate Museum in Liverpool. Included in their collection is one of Yves Klein's infamous blue paintings. A trademark color the artist patented and, according to the placard next to the painting, he believed "had a quality close to pure space." Brilliance or bull?
I remember when I first learned of Yves Klein in my art history class. I thought to myself, "what a quack!" Of course textbook representations of original works is hardly the appropriate platform on which to form a such a staunt opinion. Later that same year, I saw one of Klein's paintings in person; I still struggled to appreciate his place in the annals of art history, but accepted it - albeit with a healthy dose of resignation. Afterall, the color was pretty amazing.
And here I am, yet again considering Klein's IKB (for International Klein Blue - brilliant or pompous?) and reluctantly, pull myself closer to the painting, allowing my eyes to examine its surface. Indeed, the color is incredible. It clings to the surface in a way that escapes description and, ironically, captures space. Just as my admiration begins to give way to a trance and a whole new sense of appreciation for the painting, a group of high school-aged kids enter the gallery and bring with them the inevitable chatter that comes so easily to self-absorbed teenagers. Two girls break the invisible barrier held between myself and IKB Number Whatever, talking incessently and just skirting past the powerful forcefield that I, seconds before, was so intensely experiencing. Says one girl to her friend, "so is this just a blue painting? Is it a painting? I don't get it."
I chuckled - more at myself than to myself. I felt silly. Yup, it's just a painting. A famous one, patented and international, but just a painting nonetheless. And I'm pretty sure I could be famous for a red one - so long as it's patented...and marketed with the right amount of brilliant, pompous bull.
Finally something I am fully versed in - setting up studio! Having moved so many times in my life, I'm quite used to setting up a space, no matter how meek, in which to work. Luckily, we have two extra bedrooms in our house and Dave, being as kind as he is, has allowed me to fully take over the smaller of the two. Ahhhhhh. It's not completely finished, but it's pretty close and you wouldn't believe what an incredible effect this has had on my sense of feeling settled. Must be something about comfort in the familiar. And there is a special perk about this studio: since it's nice and temperate in England, the studio won't ever get too hot (wow, what's that like?) and it's the first time I've had a laptop and internet access in any studio I've inhabited. It's so nice to write my blog in my studio while sipping on a warm brew. The only thing that would make it better is if my Gus were here. But he lives here in spirit and I discovered yesterday that I packed away two old black and white photos of the handsome boy. Coolest. Cat. Ever. ART ON!
The other day I read an interesting factoid about Queen Bees - apparently, there are two types of Queens, those who work alone and those who sit in their nest surrounded by minion bees who do her work for her. A study of both revealed the Queen with the minions was smarter than the solitary bee. This concerns me. As a recent inductee into the Lady of Leisure I spend much of my time alone. As such I often work alone. And I prefer it. I hope my intellegence isn't in question.
I've been pondering over the past couple of days how differently I seem to experiencing life abroad knowing that I'll be here for a prolonged stay, rather than just for a ten day vacation. One of the most profound is how I seemed to have stopped "seeing" my daily surroundings. (In fact, all of the brick buildings and houses I thought to be so quaint have become mundane and repetetive. On the up side, when I travelled to the Cotswolds this weekend I was quite happy to see the village and the stone houses and buildings as very sweet and refreshing...perhaps it's because their stone is a yellow-ish color in contrast to the red brick that surrounds me where I am). The most challenging of differences, however, is the change of my personal confidence and freedom. Let me explain.
Last night I went for my first real drive since I've been here. And it's pretty much like learning how to drive all over again. As you may know, England loves the manual car and of course that's my only option. Luckily for me I was taught how to drive a manual (thanks, pop) but I'm far from fluent. And as I'm sure you know, they drive on the left here, which means the driver's side is on the right and the gear shift is on the left. So imagine me, still learning the rules of the road trying to get used to shifting with my left (and certainly NOT dominant hand). For the first 15 minutes in the driver's seat it hadn't even crossed my mind in the slightest to check my mirrors. That is until a motorcyclist zoomed passed me so quickly that I nearly ate my heart! It was only at that moment that I thought I should maybe take a peek behind me every now and again.
So here I am, driving WAY under the speed limit because I'm concentrating so much on what gear I'm in, what gear I should shift to, staying in the left lane and trying to guess the distance between my passenger's side and the cars parked on the road (I only almost hit two cars....and drove on the curb once). Dave is sitting next to me offering encouragement and, as softly as he can, constructive criticism. (I only almost gave him a heartattack once...I think. "STOP! Oh my god. Uhhhh...kind of close to that car there, baby. OK good - now give him some room to get by. OK, now be sure to give way to your right. Put on your signal - make a right. Not that one. OK, let's turn around.") I felt just like a 16-year old. Nervous. Excited. Humiliated. Relieved to get out of the car.
The other situations are far more subtle and can be something as simple as not being able to immediately understand what someone is saying (I don't think I've ever asked people to repeat themselves so much as I do here). And all of it's quite benign, really, but whether its not knowing which merchant will accept my credit card for payment (they're on the chip and pin system here which means my card has to be swiped - some stores aren't equipped to do it and other are phasing it out) or not being in touch with the local fashions I am left feeling a bit awkward, very much like a teenager. I can't drive on my own, have to ask what everything means, and operate within limited boundaries. In spite of all this, I can't help but wonder if I've been given a second chance at youth. And in some ways I've got all of the advantages - I'm not from here which means I don't have a history and can re-invent myself into anything I want and have the wisdom of experience to know how to what situations to avoid (I think). Like a teenager I've felt a bit shy when talking to strangers because I know my accent will be so obvious (and American); and at times I know, as a jeans and t-shirt kind of gal, my fashion sense is wildly different from the girls around here with the leggings and mini-skirt phenomenon. Why not just be proudly and confidently who I am - a rugged young woman from the prairie-land in the heart of America. An artist. A dreamer. A philosopher. A bit out of touch with modern culture. After all, I've been given the rare and fantastic opportinity of drinking the sweet nectar derived from the Fountain of Youth.
Not long ago (how long was that? Time seems to fall away from me like water through a sieve) I sold my house. During that time I basically liquidated my life - sorted through my belongings and packed only the most sentimental and precious of items and sold the rest. Drove some stuff to a warehouse in Chicago to be shipped to the UK. Sold my car. Found a home for one of my cats. Sadly, the other cat became very ill and had to be put down. While I was in Alaska visiting my family. I moved in with a friend for a short while. Flew to Delaware to visit more family. Spent time in Iowa with family again. Had a party in Illinois to celebrate with my friends. All of this took place in the span of about a month. Oh yea, I forgot to mention that before all of this I lost my job - a bitter sweet story that I'll save for another time. Point is - it was whirlwind.