Ode to a Pair of Nursing Clogs

This year I took a summer vacation, one of the joys of which was time painting in the studio.

I’ve migrated to three different studios over the years, but a single constant in each was my old pair of nursing clogs, converted to painting shoes.

My Nursing-Converted-to-Painting Clogs

My Nursing-Converted-to-Painting Clogs

In their earlier life, they spent ten years traipsing across a PICU, and even flew in a helicopter a time or two while transporting sick children in Oregon to Portland.

When I transitioned from PICU to adult oncology, they retired. In their new-found leisure, they started a second career as my painting shoes, where we continued to do good work together.

Anyway, over the weekend I returned to the studio and painted, changing out of my street shoes into the old, faithful clogs. They felt funny. In fact, one foot was suddenly closer to the floor than the other. I looked down, and entire sections of the right foot clog’s rubber sole had disintegrated and fallen off in chunks. As I moved about, the left foot clog did the same. I stared at them in disbelief.  I had not foreseen their imminent demise.

The Disintegrated Soles of My Nursing/Painting Clogs

The Disintegrated Soles of My Nursing/Painting Clogs

I did not have a second pair of studio shoes to change into, so I continued wearing them while painting, standing and walking, balancing on what remained of the core of their sole. We made one last painting together. I tried remembering the last patient I’d nursed while wearing these clogs, but could not.

When I finished painting for the day, I washed my brushes, and swept up the trail of black, crumbled rubber left behind on the studio floor. Removing the old, familiar clogs, I put on my street shoes, and placed the paint spattered, destroyed clogs into the garbage.

Move on. They’re just an old pair of clogs.

Besides, there’s another pair, retired when I left the infusion clinic for the oncology nurse navigator job, waiting in my closet at home to take their place in the studio.




Moving an Art Studio: Boxes and Baggage

The old studio had charming, arched windows. photo: jparadisi 2012

In December, I moved my studio. Construction needs of the landlord required vacating a few art studios, including mine. Fortunately, another was available in the same building. The caveat: I couldn’t move in until December 1, and had to vacate the old studio by December 31, 2011. Between holiday busy-ness, and increased census at work, I threw everything haphazardly into boxes, dumped them equally haphazardly into the new studio, and locked the door.

After the holidays, selling art, a new writing opportunity, and knitting socks distracted me.

This is the third studio I’ve rented since making that commitment to my art. I prefer studios in romantic old buildings. These often change owners, require new construction, or are torn down altogether. Renting studios adds a Bedouin characteristic to an otherwise stable life. In true nomadic spirit, I schlep boxes of art supplies, broken pieces of junk I hope to transform into art supplies, empty yogurt cups for mixing paint, notes from art school, good work from my student days, poor work from my student days, several unfinished paintings I intend to return to, and the equivalent of a paper ton in past issues of Art Forum, Art News, Modern Painters, Women in the Arts, and Cabinet magazines.

Now it is nearly March, and I begin the onerous task of organizing a new studio.

Opening its door, I confirm no “studio elves” have magically transformed my stuff into an organized workspace. Studio elves exist; they are called interns. They work for free, but you have to be a famous artist to have one. Or, if you are rich, they are called studio assistants. You have to pay them. I cannot afford one.

Friends offered to help, but I turned down their offers. The truth is, I want to sort through the fossils of my art life with the care of an archeologist. I’m not sure what I hope to find, but here’s some random thoughts I had while hauling bags of yogurt cups to the recycle bin:

  • Why do I have hundreds of empty yogurt cups? How much paint do I hope to mix in my lifetime? Why do I eat so much yogurt?
  • Art students draw lots of naked people. I have seen more fully naked people as an artist than as a nurse.
  • Bad paintings, like bad relationships, don’t improve over time. Get rid of them.
  • Sometimes junk is junk. Quit trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
  • Some paintings are good even if everyone doesn’t understand them. Believe in yourself.

    My new studio is brilliantly illuminated by skylights. photo: jparadisi 2012

Obviously, this is a metaphor. Ideas and beliefs no longer serving us gather like old junk behind a closed door while we are distracted by new experiences.  We lug them home and to work where they sabotage us. They are heavy, dragged from place to place, taking up space better occupied by a richer life.