Last weekend was open studios at Hunters Point. Many thanks to the people who came on the holiday weekend, and congratulations to Monica for putting in the winning bid on Sweet Dreams (see Oct 12).
Being an artist is an experience of extremes. I work alone in my basement for weeks or months, and as I paint, I feel a mounting concern that I'm going in a wrong direction, that the new work will not communicate, that the paintings I did in 2007 or 2004 were much better. I grit my teeth when it's time to install the show, and I'm tempted to sneak it all into the building when no one else is there. On Saturday morning I flip on the lights and turn on the music and open my doors and wonder what will happen.
That's when the audience takes up their part of the partnership, and they didn't let me down last weekend. People came early, looked, paused, grabbed a friend, and shared their stories with me. They'd come up and say, "This painting here touches me," and I'd say, "Tell me about it," and their eyes would get all wet, and they'd say, "I don't know why I'm crying," and I'd say, "don't worry; you're the third one to cry this morning." I felt like people trusted me through the artwork, and I felt so honored.
One man came and told me about a painting he had bought from me several years ago of a woman flying up into the sky with a peaceful expression on her face. Only afterwards did he realize that it was a perfect likeness of his mom, and she was wearing a dress he had bought for her at his first department store job. "She died two years ago, and that painting helped me to believe that she is happy where she is."
There's also a lot of laughter at open studios--the mother of three small children who bought the painting of a juggler dropping the balls, the museum staff person who had to have the levitating woman in a dividing box, another woman who told me about childhood birthdays after buying Birthday with Clouds.
The painting that got the biggest response was a painting of a girl sitting tall in a chair on a hilltop, raising her hand to the sky. "She's waving good-bye to someone who died!" "No, she's asking God some questions." "Well, I'd like to ask God some questions!" "I'm willing to meet Him halfway." "He's got a lot to answer for."
The open studio ended at 6:00 on Sunday evening. The Bay Bridge was still closed, so I loaded up the work alone. By the time I pulled out, the car was low on the axels, andthe parking lot was dark and empty. I joined the traffic inching around accidents, but I hardly noticed. I was so full of gratitude to everyone who shared in this dance of creating and seeing.