A few weeks ago, during a high five that went awry, I managed to scratch my cornea with my own finger. For the rest of the night, I held my eye in pain, believing that like other past poked eyes’ the pain would dissipate. Unable to sleep, I roamed the house drying my weeping eye and crying out in pain to Cam. Worried that I was going blind, I wondered how I could continue my creative practice, let alone possibly teach the next day.
That morning I called my mom to see if she could drive me to the doctor, as Cam had to work. At the quick clinic the doctor put a pain relieving medicine in my eye. She then dyed it yellow in order to look at the cornea surface through a UV light. The doctor said I had scratched a 1/3 of my cornea along the outside edge. Luckily the prognosis was good. The eye heals fast. I settled into my blindness and spent the rest of the day with my eyes mainly shut. Listening to movies, eating food, and even dictating a paper to my brother, my temporary scribe, I tried to enjoy this limitation by focusing on the senses I did have sound, taste, and touch. Which led me to this question; what fun can a blind person have in an art museum? No touching and no seeing?
Just like the doctor’s prediction my eye healed fast and by the time I went to the eye doctor two days later, it was already 90% healed.
The following weekend I went to the opening for the new show "Cryptic" at the Contemporary Art Museum. I was excited that one of my favorite painters, Dana Schutz, was included in the show. Her Gauguin like colors, strange figural abstractions, the lush fluidness of her paint, needless to say I was excited to see her paintings in person! The next morning, I went to the artists’ talk, a breakfast courtesy of the Contemporary, followed by a discussion panel. After an invigorating discussion on the nature of being cryptic; or not...saying it all/ being literal/ explicitness in artwork, I was able to walk up and meet Dana Schutz. I had a slight purpose, as Cam and I had gifted each other a book of hers for Christmas a few years back, and we wanted to get it signed. Immediately she complimented me on my hair, and I on hers, as we were sister of the big curly hair. Then she began to tell me about how she’d injured herself and I told her about my eye. Which was funny as her paintings actually remind me of ways that humans being the cause their own damage. Cam and Lauren Adams joined in the conversation and we discussed St. Louis, studio practices, and printmaking. I can’t tell you how energizing it was for me to meet an established artist that was so humble and easily approachable. I found this very encouraging, as this is how I’d like to be in the world. It reminds me that nobody has “it” figured out.
Season of Weddings
For the past two weekends I’ve had the pleasure to attend some amazing wedding. I felt like at both weddings, I was surrounded by amazing unpretentious people.
The first wedding was for Galen and Jessica Gondolifi in Gary, Indiana. Cam and I gave a ride to the ever entertaining and possibly best road tripping guest ever- Sallie Durbin. While Sallie regaled us with tales of her off the grid life in Columbia, MO followed by her entrance into the New York fashion world, we nibbled on an array of snacks she’d packed. Almonds, deli sandwiches, a glass of wine, it was the best car picnic I’ve ever had! I had so much fun discovering commonalities with a relatively new friend.
We arrived at my friend Christy’s house/ theater in Chicago and settled into her main room. Continuing our conversations, Christy filled us in on her family and friends working through the Joplin tornado. Thank God her immediate family was okay. I began to doze off as her and Cam debated the differences between the art world and the film industry. The next morning I woke to Christy playing some fantastic music by
Driving the hour into Gary, we were surprised to see a lot of nature. Up to that point everyone had been asking us why go to Gary, Indiana? After checking into our hotel and dropping Sally off at Jessica’s parents house, Cam and I went to get ready. When we arrived at the church we were delighted to see so many St. Louis faces. The Catholic mass had a special feel to it as so many of their friends and family members took part in the readings and prayers. The priest, Father George originally from Uganda, filled the mass with gentle metaphors about the similarity between having good credit and a strong marriage. Galen led the bridal entourage by running Jessica seated in his rickshaw to the reception site at the aquatorium.
The aquatorium was a cool old beach house building along Lake Michigan. The top level was covered but completely open with views across the water. After a series of tear inducing toasts, we ate. A highlight for me was seeing the Wayne Thiebaud painting of cakes reproduced as wedding cakes! Even more so I was humbled by the amazing people around me artists, social workers, poets, teachers, and museum/gallery workers. It was impossible not to feel- I was surrounded by talent, and even more so people with a lot of heart. What a fantastic marriage of two people!
That night Sally, Cam, and I drank tequila and sat on the rocking chairs outside of the Country Inn Suites. I contemplated my own purpose and wondered, while in the company of so many amazing people, if I was living a life in line with the meaning I wished to have.
Sunday morning we joined a series of people for breakfast and we were able to hang out with Kevin, Wonder, and Father George. I learned that Father George is trying to create community change by starting up a school to serve as resource for women and orphans in Uganda. Sally, Cam, and I felt immediately drawn to his ideas. He was looking for help from people to start the fundraising process and to eventually offer programs. A new purpose presented itself to me at breakfast, we volunteered to help.
Departing from Sally, Cam and I drove into Chicago to check out the Mark Bradford show and hang with our friend Ian. The Mark Bradford show was strong, although I was turned off by the amount of text on the interpretive panels. When I am at a show I like to look at the work and then read the panel to ascertain what I understand and what I missed. I felt like, I was told too much through the text, to the point where it took a little of the magic away from viewing the work. I didn’t need to know it all…odd as I at times am afraid of being too literal in my own narratives.
It was a pleasure to see our friend Ian, who is always intelligent, hardworking, and compassionate. We ate a delicious lunch at a vegetarian diner where I had the best Reuben- (meat or no meat)-ever. Ian took us on a tour of his studio and he gave us updates on his project… Plus it was grounding for Cam and I to meet with our old fellow graduate as we found that we shared commonalities in throughts about how art might function in the world. For us it was a discussion about the similarities between Ian’s project, Cam’s museum, and my thesis show, plus a general recognition that we all in some way were attempting to re-examine or make peace with our childhoods.
This weekend was big a convergence of my core people in St. Louis. My sister came in town for a wedding. We had some quality workout and shoe shopping time together. Then many of my college friends arrived in St. Louis in preparation for our dear friends, Ryan and Sean, and their wedding/ commitment ceremony. Finally my best friend Amy moved back to St. Louis!
My First Gay Wedding
I had been preparing for Ryan and Sean’s wedding for sometime, as they had commissioned me to create a painting for their wedding and invite. My friend Brooke, (bride in the fantastic Mexico wedding from earlier posts) served as their wedding planner, and so I’d been hearing about many of the wedding preparations. Not wanting to have a traditional wedding (as ridiculous Missouri does not recognize gay marriage), I enjoyed the purpose and meaning they brought to their ceremony and reception. All around I felt little touches of Ryan and Sean- from the inclusion of their Dog Maddie, who along with Ryan’s mother walked him down the aisle, to the raucous band Soul Alliance, to the sheet music table numbers around the room. The ceremony was brief, conducted by Ryan’s aunt, who spoke of how special it was that this full room of people was there to recognize their commitment and how amazing it was that like their grandparents they had fallen for their child hood sweethearts. I could not help but start crying for many reasons.
On one hand I was so happy for my friends. Also, I experienced this deep emotional gut understanding about how the law is wrong and that it pained me greatly that our government says who someone can or can’t love. Beyond that sadness, I experienced an elation that even if the law doesn’t recognize it, we, all those people in attendance would. We were there because we wanted to see gay marriage recognized. I know that Sean and Ryan struggled initially with the idea of having a commitment ceremony, was it better to protest by not having one? Ryan said he’d felt like as he’d grown up he wanted people to recognize their commitment and he wanted to do it publicly, to share with people. I am so thankful that he did, this wedding ritual was celebratory and powerful for me to experience. Later a parent spoke- I knew that their son had a hard time coming out to this particular parent- what a moment to hear this person quoting a Garth Brooks song about being able to love who we love and then to follow up with “I’m proud to be from Missouri but I can’t wait to see these laws change. “
Finally in closure my talented strong friend Amy has moved back to St. Louis. After several years working as a lawyer in D.C., she realized over the last year that she was incredibly unhappy. She decided to move back to St. Louis and give herself the chance to push the restart button. So she will allow herself to try a new place and new work in hope of unpacking this question of- what will make me happy in my life? I am proud that even though she was far along with her career and connections in D.C. she has risked it all to find her happiness. As she does this searching, if you know of any fun part time work let me know so I can send it her way.
All in all I have been humbled by my friends and family, even if I am not certain of what I am doing, it gives me great strength to know I am surrounded by people that have the courage to live their lives in pursuit of meaning.