My friend Matt recently asked if I was still “doing the Artist Date thing.”
I am somewhat taken aback. It reminds me of being asked if I am still dating Insert-Man-Here — an inquiry often made when I have ceased to talk about a man du jour. It is the cousin question to, “Have you heard from Insert-Man-Here?”
The answer to both is usually, no. If I were, if I had, I would have mentioned it.
But Matt isn’t asking about a man. He is asking about my commitment to myself and to my craft. I wonder if I have ceased to talk about it, to be engaged with it, or if he has just not read about it lately.
The whole exchange scratches at the part of me that knows I haven’t been as committed to the practice as it is prescribed by Julia Cameron in “The Artist’s Way” as I once was. The part that bristles at my skipping weeks, writing about them much later and occasionally allowing others to join on my intended solo sojourns — my imperfection.
I do not mention any of this. Instead, I sy, “Yes,” and add that I have just completed two years of Artist Dates.
A week later, I have not been on another.
I tell myself I’ve been busy with the seemingly incongruent actions of preparing to leave the country for a year and trying to secure additional work while I am here. Drafting resumes, taking software tests and going on interviews; ordering background checks and searching for best prices on airline tickets.
On the eighth day following Matt’s original inquiry, the universe sends a second messenger — this one, a bit more direct. Dorothy attends one of the Thursday Weight Watchers meetings I lead. She is in her 70s and is the kind of woman I hope to become — active, engaged in the world, growing, learning, giving back.
She asks if I have been to the Annual Flower Show at Macy’s.
I have not.
Dorothy sees this as an invitation to make an invitation. She tells me about the show, its theme — Art in Bloom — and how she, a master gardener, and others have breathed life into it.
When she is done, I commit to it, to her, to myself and to my process. I arrive on the 9th floor of the Macy’s flagship store on State Street a few hours later, Artist Date 106.
I smell the exhibit before I can see it. It is moist, warm, green — like the Lincoln Park conservatory where I have spent many Chicago winter days warming myself. I do not expect it.
Flowers are planted into shapes like Matisse cut-outs. Whimsical. Vibrant. I think of the cracked frame holding a Matisse print in the living room of my Mission-neighborhood apartment. Of my then boyfriend sitting on a Pilates ball, losing balance, and rolling into the wall — knocking the print off of it.
Grid flower boxes in primary colors with thick black lines are an ode to Piet Mondrian. I recall the Mondrian show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York many, many years ago — entering the fashioned artist’s studio and swing dancing inside of it with my friend Jason.
I remember my friend Teresa’s mother taking me to the Macy’s Flower Show in San Francisco — on our way to her daughter’s theater performance. She went every year. It was her tradition. Returning to it in Chicago nearly 20 years later, the show becomes a chapter in mine.
I peer through a doorway on my way out — classic paintings are being projected onto a wall of white flowers. Michelangelo’s Mona Lisa. Boticelli’s The Birth of Venus. Raphael’s Sistine Madonnas.
I wonder what my own life might look like projected onto a wall of white flowers.
Fragrant. Lush. Harsh edges softened. Altered but recognizable, I think.
A lot like it already is.
5 thoughts on “Artist Date 106: Altered But Recognizable”
LOVE: “harsh edges softened.”
Weird how much I’ve been impacted by finding out you’re splitting.
That is sweet, Gene. Thanks, as always, for reading and for supporting my craft. Will definitely see you before I leave.
This is a link to Lorna Simpson’s collage work — an artist date I want to take you on.
Let’s make it happen.
Oh lord I am just seeing this! You have been to Italia and are hopefully back now??? I was just displaced and have loads of time. I also realized something important about our convos together that I didn’t get at the time. Anyway — gene.booth@gmail please write!