Retrospective Reflection

My mom is not a hoarder.  Everything she has is organized – she just keeps a lot of stuff. In her defense, it’s a lot of our stuff, my sisters and me, things we left behind when we moved out.  I can ask her for the most random thing – a super-ball for playing jacks for example, and she will produce it in thirty seconds or less.

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I went over there today to hunt for vintage bridesmaid dresses for a Halloween costume idea I have and found a dress from 1978.  Yes, it still fits, which is hilarious because it just feels so weird to put something on that I wore when I was fifteen.  More so because it even exists, lol, and is actually in decent condition.

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I started looking at the old photo albums stored in heavy duty plastic bins in the basement, which took the better part of the afternoon – all the bad hair and bad posture pictures that make me cringe and think thank God we didn’t have Facebook then.  I’d rather be the keeper of my own image and so I brought the albums home with me.

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Yesterday I went to visit Linda Bigness in her art studio at the Delavan Center in Syracuse, NY.  We did a video interview and as soon as I can figure out how to send her the video through email- it’s about 45 minutes long – she will edit it for a future post.  Watching her work made me wish I had a studio like hers and that I was as compelled to paint everyday as she is.  I used to be.

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In 1997, I worked as a Master Teacher at the New York State Summer School of the Arts.  It was held at Cazenovia College that year.  I was thrilled to have been hired by former Syracuse University professor James Ridlon because at the time they were looking for high school art teachers and I taught elementary  (although my certification is K-12) and I didn’t even have tenure.  I taught one class in the morning and spent the rest of the time in a studio space painting 36″ x 36″ canvases.  This was right after my first year at my job.  I was still living in my parents’ basement (cellar dweller) and right after that two-week stint complete with living in the dorm, I got my apartment on Woodbine Avenue where I ended up existing for nine years.

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I had lunch every day with a Cazenovia art professor, Corky Goss, who later offered me the opportunity to exhibit in their gallery. Bring everything you have is what he said, because the space was so big.  I took that literally and framed a heck of a lot of paintings for the show the following year.

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I found pictures from that show in one of the photo albums.  I think they were pictures Mom took because you can see the reception spread and Mom always documents the food.  Upon reflection, it’s so funny because I still look at that show and remember how much I thought I had arrived as an artist and how I thought I was going to be phenomenally successful and all I would need to do is wait passively for the accolades and the next step to just happen to me.  The rollercoaster ride, you know?  Like it would just happen.

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I wonder how many other artists have had that same feeling.  Probably everyone of us at one time or another.  The moment arrives and you are so sure it is a turning point but then it isn’t, wasn’t.  Art is quite a ride, whether it is visual or performing arts.  You have to have a thick skin to deal with the rejection.  Maybe nobody has a thick skin.  It’s more that we try to focus on the positive experiences and remind ourselves of them when things are not going so well.  In my career, it was never so much about not going well, it was more success-nothing-nothing-nothing-success-nothing-nothing, etc.

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Maybe things will change, maybe not.  I’m not discouraged because I do feel very lucky.  I have my family and memories complete with decades old paraphernalia.  Reflecting on the past makes me realize that there have been so many good chapters in my life and a great many goofy ones.

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