Making a Living, Making Art, and a Dirty Bathroom

Clean Up! photo: jparadisi 2010Often, I’m so busy living my life there’s little time to write about it, and this is one of those times.

I remember sitting at the dinner table as a teenager, telling my Dad I wanted to be an artist and a writer (It’s Sunday afternoon, and I’m thinking about my father. I used to call him on Sundays). Anyway, I told Dad I wanted to be an artist and a writer, and he said in his Italian accent, “Sweetheart, you have talent and I think you can succeed, but you need to do something else for a living first, or you won’t have anything interesting to write about. Successful writers and artists have life experience.” Some people today believe a huge following on Facebook or Twitter is the secret to success, and maybe they are right, but I think my father’s statement has some merit. The problem with doing something else with your life to gain life experience though, is that the something else takes valuable time away from writing and making art, giving my father’s words the stature of a Zen Buddhist koan. Making a living versus making art is a  struggle for many artists.

However, there is the reverse problem, which occurs when the writing and art making are going well. Take last night.  After running errands for my upcoming show until early evening, including picking up Love You to Death and another large painting from the frame shop, the paintings stood in our living room, propped up against the dining room chairs. David and I were sacked out on the sofa in front of the TV that we weren’t really watching. There was an unexpected knock on the door, and there stood the primary collector of my paintings, who is also a friend I admire greatly for her etiquette and style. She brought us a gift. We were glad to see her. She saw the two paintings on the floor, one thing led to another, and now she is considering buying the other large painting. She wanted to know how to hang it, so I took her into our bathroom, where it previously hung, to show her the hook size. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed David wince. Focusing on the hook, I remembered the reason for David’s pained expression: the bathroom counter was spotted with water, as was the mirror, and my hair and David’s shaving debris were noticeable in the sink. Oh yeah, we were too busy to clean the bathroom this week. Ugh. Of course, my friend is too polite to say anything. That’s how it goes sometimes. Making time for nursing and making art often edges out housework for me. I’m lucky to be married to someone who takes better care of our home than I do. I read somewhere that when painter Helen Frankenthaler was married to painter Robert Motherwell, Helen never did the housework, Robert did. I find absolution in that story and I hope it’s true, but I cleaned the bathroom after she left.