Sunday, December 4, 2011

"Call and Response: Anonymous"

“There are worlds beyond worlds and times beyond times,
all of them true, all of them real, and all of them (as children know) penetrating each other.”

Pamela Lyndon Travers

THE CALL: I have a 'Call and Response" blog series going on. Would you be willing to participate? If you could somehow flesh out that how art inspired/inspires you - writing, examples, giving out for Thanksgiving, parenting - whatever. That would be great.

from Anonymous:

The summer of 2008, I had just quit my job at Lehman Brothers. I sat behind my computer screen with my jaw dropped as I watched Isaac do a live painting on YouTube. I had not seen this kid (now a man) in nearly 20 years but had always wondered where he had gone when we started high school. I watched another video and another one. It made me so happy to see him in his element, painting away, all the way in Japan. It was like seeing a big, gorgeous bird flying over the ocean. Like it didn’t have a care in the world and was just doing what God made him to do. I didn’t know where life had taken him after age 14, but I knew where he came from and was very proud of his accomplishments.

Uploaded by on Jun 6, 2008

There were a lot of reasons why I chose a legal education after dropping out of an arts conservatory. I had wanted to be a dramaturge and went to the North Carolina School of the Arts in high school and then to Purchase College for a year – both are highly respected institutions. My father’s extreme fear of poverty was somehow in my DNA. Then, there was the very real fear of poverty as well. We couldn’t (or wouldn’t) afford art school. I got caught stealing from the school cafeteria one day when I was really hungry and had no money.

At my house, art was something that small kids did. I stopped drawing when I was perhaps 10 years old. My sister’s dance major in college was “a lot of prancing around that would never pay the bills “ She switched to a science major and joined ROTC instead. There was a lot of screaming and crying about this issue, a lot of threats to pull funding from this dream or that dream – very real threats to kick kids out if they did not pursue a “real education” such as “business or engineering” that would put food on the table. Getting kicked out of the house was the physical consequence for following creative goals. But the shaming that a creative type would endure at our house is something I am still coming to terms with.

Uploaded by on Jul 5, 2008

Justifying my father’s position, he had been raised in a two-room house by an alcoholic abusive father with a third grade education. His dad was a hog auctioneer. He went to work in stockyards with his father when he was five. He went hungry a lot. Education and the ability to make money were important to him in ways that I will never understand. I’m grateful to my father for providing a life when I was a child where we did not do without things and were even sheltered from knowing the monetary cost of our standard of living. I think it’s important to be thankful for what’s good about your parents as you acknowledge the things about them that anger you. I think he really was trying to protect us by helping us to assassinate our little creative selves as we matured into adults.

Uploaded by on Mar 11, 2009

I went to law school because my father didn’t think I could finish anything “worthwhile.” I made a high salary for a few years. I know a hell of a lot about taxation of high net worth individuals and got to meet some of America’s most successful and talented entrepreneurs. But sitting on the edge of a trading floor, I used to imagine my boss as a gazelle being chased by tigers. (By the way, he totally deserved it.) To get through the day, I had elaborate fantasies about many of my co-workers as jungle animals. I was miserable and figured that no one else on the floor had strange daydreams like this to make it through the day. My creative self was pretty much DOA and this was its last ditch cry for help!

Uploaded by on Feb 2, 2008

So I quit. And when I got a little time on my hands, I saw Isaac painting, as naturally as breathing, on YouTube. And I had time to connect with all my friends from my previous life in arts school. And many of them were making a living and working as artists. How was it that all of these successful creative people felt they had the right to live their dreams? The right to paint all day, to design clothing, to write plays, and just to walk out of the house and say, “I am an artist.” It all seemed so brave to me. Didn’t their dads tell them to major in accounting, too? They must all be trust fund babies. Well, as it turns out, none of them were trust fund babies. What all of these friends had in common were parents who told them – or even better, showed them – that their creative dreams are God’s gift. I don’t know the dialogues that went on in these households, but I try to write them in my head so that I have a script for parenting my own child to realize his dreams, whatever they may be. Whatever the manifestation of them – you are the designer. You need to listen to that little voice and then go, go, go.

"Albatross, Tasmania"
Uploaded by on Mar 1, 2007

Isaac’s dad, it turns out, is an artist. I am guessing the script at their house involved Dad painting stuff, maybe drawing and sculpting as well. Who knows – I wasn’t there. And I know that no parent-child relationship is perfect, but I envy the love and respect for life paths that I believe exists between the two of them. You can teach your kids to survive, or you can teach them how to live.

Willoree Ford. Third generation of artists working in the Spidey-Hole Studio.
In the background: part of the "Novena for Sendai" series (in process).

Oh, and you can also re-parent yourself as an adult. The bravest thing I did this year was to walk into a beginner’s art class and not run out the back door. And less scary, I allowed myself the luxury of beginning an art collection. I am sure that my parents would disapprove, which is a great indicator that it’s a fantastic idea. So self-indulgent, I just love it.

TOMSCHULZARTIST RESPONDS: Well gosh, Anonymous. You bring so much stuff to the conversation! Cultural stuff. Generational stuff. Happiness, pride, drama, fear, art, threats, shame, gratitude, misery, connections, invention and love.

So, let me share a story with you. You shared with me. It only seems right. That's at the core of what Empathinc. is about - fair exchange.

One day. Years ago ( I was the same age then as Isaac is now). I told Isaac, "Help me build a wood shed, you need to learn those skills." He replied, "Teach me to paint. That's what I need to know." Well, I don't mind telling you that I was in a tough place at the time, Anonymous. I didn't understand then that there is a perfection in the process of growing. I thought I was stuck. So I looked at this kid, and I thought, "What did he know? Was he just being lazy? My ability to design and build was paying the bills, for god's sake!"

But I knew he was right. I did need to teach him to paint. To let myself paint, and to know the complexities of what it meant to paint: to know that painting included concrete formalizing, abstract actualizing and and and - whole space.
Pass the beer nuts.

While comprehending both the conveniences and pitfalls of a Cause and Effect existence, here at empathinc. we prefer to live in a Call and Response Universe. This series is an exploration of that space.

Thank you Anonymous, for Responding to the Call.
"You can teach your kids to survive, or you can teach them how to live."
And you can show them the countless paths to freedom. Their freedom.
Good luck with that. Tom.


Jane Schulz said...

I want to hug Anonymous and say "I'm sorry!" And to praise him/her for finding the courage to rebel.

I remember seeing Tom come home from the work that bought groceries and pick up his paint brush.

I said, "Tom, I know you're tired. How can you paint after working all day?" He said, "Mom, painting energizes me."

It wasn't paying the bills, but it was feeding his soul. It still does. And all of us are better for it.

Tom Schulz said...

What a wonderful comment, Jane! Thanks for sharing.
Doing what you have to do doesn't necessarily take faith or tenacity (though those certainly do come in handy).
It takes the freedom of knowing that you have access to multiple realities and then tapping into that energy.
I don't care to imagine living any other way.