This whole recent experience of changing studios and moving has really been quite enlightening for me. In my old studio there were a lot of “dead” things that had accumulated that did not belong to me but that I seemed to be “Holding on” to for other people, not that many, but ten years ago when I moved into 307 from the 408 studio, it was much bigger and I took a lot of art work out of storage to bring to the studio. At the same time, others were dumping things there with the idea that, “oh just keep them there for me and I will get them out soon.” I did not realize what I was getting into. I’ve heard all kinds of stories from other adults about that moment when their parents suddenly say, “Hey, come home and look through the basement and take all your stuff out because we will not continue to hold it for you. Strangely that happened to me this year and I brought a lot of bags of old photos, papers from college and grad school, letters from long ago, and photos of people I spent a brief time with probably during high school summers and college, people whom I could not recognize or remember, but I threw them in bags and got them over to my studio, and thought to myself, “Well, at least I am taking these to my own space to figure out what to do with them and these are actually mine, not some friends’ stuff…” This was a few months ago when I had no idea my world would be turned upside down by moving studios.
By nature, I am not much of a hoarder, considering being a visual artist already is not in one’s favor for getting rid of stuff because it’s hard to throw out big oil paintings you did over 20 years ago that didn’t sell. I challenge most artists to say they easily throw out old work. I have gone threw old work periodically and purged some of it without much emotional attachment and much relief, so I know it can be done.
Anyway at some point soon after moving into 307, I payed a friend to build me painting racks which were very good and could hold all my old art and have room for new art. Until I started moving, I did not realize how much square footage this large high painting rack was taking up, a large part of my studio. One of the things that is so liberating about my new studio is having storage built in, so that my biggest old work is tucked away in an already built three tiered small painting rack that does not take up much space and is not facing you when you walk in the room. There is literally more creative space in there, whatever the square footage of the two rooms. In the first room for the first time in 23 years of having art studios, I have an actual closet with shelves in it. What a difference. And more storage up high and out of the way.
Behind my big painting rack was all kinds of “stuff” I was holding on to that I finally got rid of. An antique wood bed I sold. Other random stuff I threw out. It was like the studio was hiding all this old toxic stuff that did not belong to me that I was still carrying with me. Three boxes of photos and other stuff that was not mine. I finally took it home so it never even got to the second studio and tonight on garbage night at home, I dragged this stuff down the stairs and put it out as trash. Several trips of doing this.
As a person who likes throwing things out but also likes picking up weird hardware on the street and things on my studio floor and doilies from restaurants and adding them to collages, as well as discovering I could take old bad drawings and recycle them in new work, I had the usual feeling of relief after throwing these boxes out. It is true the Feng Shui principle that you have to get rid of clutter to make space for new stuff to happen. In the moving process, I was tempted to take apart and get rid of a major series of art work done in my early twenties, but I couldn’t do it. However, I found one self-portrait that was quite big that I easily tore apart and threw out. Still not great considering how many other works I kept, but it was easy last week to donate a big triptych, and two smaller works to a silent auction and hope they would get sold. Three more art peices sent out into the world, 3 more art peices I don’t have to hold on to. I used to have a fantasy that someone would come to my studio and say, I’m taking all your work, everything you’ve made up to today, and you can’t keep any of it. I will disperse it to people and find homes for it, every single peice will be up on some strangers wall and you will be left with empty drawers and empty racks and walls. What a great thing that would be. In my fantasy I was aware that I had not great attachment to my art because I want to be making new art and getting rid of the old art. It would be such a relief to not have to hold on to stuff I created that I know I can’t throw out. There is a series from 2001 that lasted about two years of tiny drawings. I sold a bunch of them and gave a bunch of them away but I still have a drawer full of all of them. It was an important body of work, but why do I keep it in the drawer? I can’t throw it out but isn’t there some solution between the extremes of holding on to one’s own art work and throwing it out?
I’m not sure the answer to it. I know someone who recently went through old journals and threw out most of each one, but kept a few images. That I admire. I like throwing out clothes I won’t wear and all kinds of stuff that is so easy to get rid of, like old paperwork and bank statements from years ago but I have all my art jornals from the last twenty five years or so since I started making them and decorating each cover back in college. I could probably go through them but the covers themselves I am attached to and wouldn’t want to throw out…
Anyway, the point of this post is that it is important to let go of “things” and make room for the here and now. IF having to move is what gets one to do it, then the move is helping you get to living life in the now and not in the past.
This new studio feels that way. I am more aware of what I want to bring in to it and what I don’t want in it and how eventually I want it to be organized to optimize space to walk around in so as to be able to walk back and forth to the art while making it. I have grown used to a bad habit of crouching over my art work while making it, and then putting it on the wall. It’s great to work at a table or on the floor but more movement is better so the body does not get stiff while creating.
Expansive is a great word that somehow is both light and “heavy” in a good way. letting go, making room, stirring up, awakening to the now…