Sometimes I feel like I'm in this strange twilight zone called the art world. Where nothing will ever be normal or as planned.
Today I went to hang a show in the East Crossroads. I spent a week getting ready and the last 12 hours, on a holiday, finishing up work to make it a complete show. I also rewrite the descriptions for each show and name each show. It's like writing a little play featuring the actors: my paintings. There were some issues with the hanging that didn't go as planned. So I drank some black coffee while I waited. I don't care anymore. I drink tap water. I drink coffee without cream or sugar. I just survive. That is why I wasn't expecting the sucker punch question while I was hanging said artwork, several months of labor, up on the wall:
"So how do you manage to make a living as an artist? Where do you even live."
Well, I'm not exactly homeless. But this is a rude question. And not the best one to ask an artist who is actually working and making a living as an artist, someone who is not a student. I can't imagine myself asking the older couple eating the 1.99 grand slam breakfast at Denny's. So do you think you are going to make it on your social security this month? How do you even expect to live? Do you have to live with your kids or something like that? No. I'd never say that.
In years past, I've even stood in a food pantry line for over an hour with other locals discussing their welfare benefits. And I never asked them how they thought they would make it or what their living conditions were like. Even my lawyer who made $200 an hour when she was my lawyer, I didn't ask her if she thought she could make it or what her living conditions were. I assumed they were okay. But then it was none of my business.
Anyway, I didn't have a great come back to this question. I should have it prepared. I'm asked pretty much every day on average. I have a lot of great answers. I can never think of them at the time.
People ask a lot of rude questions, I know. They ask about how many children you want when you can't have any. They ask about what kind of job your husband has when you don't have one. They ask how your parents have been when you've lost one. They ask how your vacation was when you couldn't afford one. They ask a lot of rude questions with assumptions. Often people won't speak to me at all. I think they just can't think of any questions at all. I know they don't mean it that way. Asking questions is an art. I have just as much need for improvement in this area as anyone.
It's just that if you meet an artist who has managed to get out bed, drive their own car to work, pay the parking meter for an hour, and take art out of the trunk, bring all the stuff to hang the art, and is dressed presentably and greets you kindly. Don't ask them if they think they are going to make it. The answer is no. And the answer is, they already have.
Later that week, I helped another artist hang her show of beautiful photography at the yoga center where I have a little studio now. I'm an artist in residence. This photographer, she's never shown before. I didn't ask her if she thought she was going to make it or where she lived. But I know she already has "made it." She came in, brought beautiful work. Named the work, hung it up. She brought her vision to life and shared it with others. She made it. Sometimes artists are sensitive and we can get stuck on a question that wasn't meant to be harmful. I'm trying to think of a group painting idea. Would artists do that? And what kind of project? If I drew a design would another artist paint it, or vice versa? And then whose would it be? What would we do with it? My favorite project I've ever done was that Freedom 58 painting at a gallery in the Crossroads recently called FourChapter gallery. Nothing feels better than painting and making a difference at the same time. I painted a live portrait of a woman rescued from trafficking. The show will go all over the world or at least the Georgia airport, the director of the nonprofit said. I even helped get some more artists and poets together for their event. It was a great collaboration! A really good mix.
Today I found an old picture I drew, something I made when I was not an artist, just a mom staying at home with my toddler doing puzzles. Every finished piece of art means we have made it. Every creative work shared means we have made it. I will have a better answer next time or I will just laugh at silly questions and try to turn it around. On first Fridays during my art shows, I ask hundreds of people if they make art too. They always say no, then get out their phones and show me the art they make, the cabinets they build, the stained glass they did in a class, the art they do with their grandchildren. If everyone knew they were an artist, and that we've all made it-- the world will be a better place.