Everything Takes Longer Than You Think It Will

First Communion (Paper Dolls) mixed media on paper 2010 jparadisi

Everything takes longer than you think it will.

I believe this to be true, so my strategy for managing the unexpected things that happen while preparing an art exhibition is allowing ample lead-time. Since I’ve been exhibiting for a while, I have a checklist of universal tasks such as documenting the work, updating business cards, making post cards, vinyl lettering, framing, etc. If the artwork is traveling to a gallery in another city, I build in time for packing and shipping too. Once the paintings are made, I begin crossing tasks off the checklist. Even so, the unexpected will occur.

Take yesterday morning, for instance. When I began this post, David was solving a printing problem we discovered the night before. Several hours later, he fixed the problem and we made the prints. However, it delayed their delivery to Luke’s Frame Shop for packaging a few days, because the ink has to dry and cure first.

Sometimes unexpected occurrences are positive. Last week, while showing the From Cradle to Grave: The Color White portfolio to Anna Solcaniova King (see Pulling a Rabbit Out of Her Hat: An Interview with Anna S. King), curator and co-owner of Anka Gallery, I discovered a new relationship between two of the paintings, strengthening each.

This morning, I’m writing my artist bio for the show. Maybe it’s my experiences as a cancer survivor and an oncology nurse that makes the task feel like a prelude to an obituary. I can’t help it. Nowadays, with electronic media, I’m aware that every word I write about myself is recorded somewhere in cyberspace. The days where an artist or writer could destroy early work, and preserve only the work they wished to represent them after their death, are over. Same with the artist’s statement. When my thoughts about From Cradle to Grave: The Color White deepen and mature over time, the words I write about the paintings today may someday contradict my insights of the future. I hate feeling committed to an inflexible opinion as if my thoughts are butterflies pinned to a board and hung on a wall in a picture frame. I want the freedom to explore and gain wisdom.

But a thoughtful artist statement is required, and so I do my best to express who I am, and what my painting and writing are about, knowing that if I’m lucky enough to live a long life, some of the information will change. Like my art, I am evolving.

Everything takes longer than you think it will.

Summer Weekend Guests Part I

Salt bowl, chocolate, and spurtle photo: jparadisi 2010

This weekend David and I happily entertained out of town guests. Besides the opportunity to spend time with people we love, we get to see our city, Portland, Oregon, through the eyes of visitors. Here are a few of the fun places we visited:

Bob’s Red Mill: 5000 SE International Way, Milwaukie, Oregon, uses antique millstones to grind whole grain products, which they package and sell. On weekdays you can tour the mill, then head over to the grain store and restaurant to buy products or have a hearty meal. I had the eggs and grits for breakfast, but could have had French toast, waffles, or one of many other choices from the bakery or espresso bar. Family friendly, Bob’s Red Mill has a vast selection of gluten-free products too. Bob’s steel-cut oats are an international award winner (also available gluten-free). If you buy some to take home, be sure to buy a hand-carved spurtle (Scottish porridge stirring stick) made by artisan Tim Cebulla from native Oregon myrtle wood.

The Meadow: 3731 N. Mississippi Ave., Portland, Oregon. Okay, I know about sodium and high blood pressure, but it’s worth learning the discipline of moderation to shop at The Meadow. This unique establishment sells salt from all over the world. I think of it as geology for my kitchen. As a return customer, I already own one of their salt starter sets, and a bowl carved from pink Himalayan rock salt. So, I bought a bar of imported dark chocolate to melt directly in the salt bowl for dipping fresh strawberries and bananas into. The knowledgeable salesperson provided complete instructions on how to do it. Besides salts of the earth, The Meadow also sells a large assortment of fine chocolates, wines, and fresh flowers.

Pistils Nursery: 3811 N. Mississippi Ave., Portland, Oregon, is down the street from The Meadows.  A marvel of design in a very small space, Pistils is a nursery and chicken habitat in a converted old house. Nestled in a largely residential neighborhood, my husband wondered how they keep their free-roaming, exotic chickens within the fenced yard. I’m curious how they keep the neighborhood cats out. At any rate, this homey version of a full-fledge nursery is a delight for the senses. I am kicking myself that this was one of the rare times I was without a camera. You’ll have to go see for yourself.

Meandering Through Powell’s Bookstore and in My Head About Art and Nursing

     

Powell's City of Books photo: JParadisi 2010

 

     My husband and I recently entertained guests from out-of-town. One of the fun things we did was visit Powell’s City of Books in Portland. Powell’s on Burnside is the largest bookstore in the world, a reader’s Paradise. Rooms of books sprawl from floors of multiple staircases, like levels of heaven. It is so big; the store provides maps for customers, like Disneyland. If you visit Powell’s, allow at least two hours. Like making a painting, you never finish going through Powell’s, you just reach interesting places to stop.   

     Of course, I bought some books while we were there. Three came from the Pearl Room, where the art books are shelved. In the Gold room, I found a copy of American Pastoral by Philip Roth. I’ve meant to read Philip Roth since I read Night Studio, a memoir by Musa Mayer about her father, the artist Philip Guston. The two Philips were friends, as painters and writers often are. That is not why I bought American Pastoral. I bought the novel because I’m reading books from the Books to Read Immediately list in How to Read like a Writer, by Francine Prose. An award-winning author, Prose teaches writing the way my instructors at Pacific Northwest College of Art taught painting: study the work of the best, and imitate what they did.   

     It sounds so simple: study masterpieces. This kind of observation is about getting inside the artist or writer’s head, understanding the choices they made, and why each decision contributes to the masterpiece. The next step is to take that why and store it like a tool in its box, until an opportunity for use presents itself.   

     That sounds simple too, except that the trick, the magic, the craft, only occurs if one wields the tool in a fresh, new way. Restating something said before needs to reveal a unique voice. That is what makes the work a piece of art: craft and a unique voice.   

     As I meandered through the rooms of Powell’s, it occurred to me that craft and unique voice are often missing in nursing innovation. How many times are manufacturers of IV tubing and connector systems replaced in a hospital? That is not innovation; it’s changing vendors because the current vendor contract has expired and the hospital is shopping for a new one. Real innovation is finding ways to improve, for instance, staffing in a damaged economy. It is seeing old ideas in a fresh new way. Hospitals move slowly towards change, as if lumbering freighters pulled along by tugboats in a busy harbor. Nurses resist change too. For instance, we complain about understaffing, and about losing hours (pay) when hospital census is low. Not enough nurses leaves a unit under staffed, but too many nurses means not enough working hours for everyone. Dilemma is part of the business of health care. Problems have answers; dilemmas are ongoing and need management.    

     Reduced paychecks due to lost shifts were particularly painful when I was a single mother with a mortgage. After awhile, the vacation paid leave dried up too. I needed cash. Therefore, I became agreeable to floating from PICU to related units, like NICU and general pediatrics. It wasn’t always comfortable going to an unfamiliar unit and taking  patient assignments, but I found if I went with an open mind, spoke up about what kind of assignments were appropriate for my skill level, and won over a buddy or two from the unit, floating wasn’t that bad. I took CE courses in NICU subjects, including NALS and improved my skills. That improved my comfort level and patient safety. Social networking the old school way, I made friends in the units where I floated, and rarely lost a shift of work. Each new skill embellished my résumé; adding to my marketability. It’s a good tactic for nurses wanting to look experienced, instead of just aging, to employers.   

     Hospital administration plays an important role in successful floating experiences for their nurses. It is critical that they understand it takes more than a body with a pulse and a stethoscope to care for various patient populations. Years ago, I attended a meeting organized by the hospital. Its administrators asked nurses what would encourage us to float. I pointed out that while I was able to sustain a critically ill child on life support;  if floated to labor and delivery I could reason that a slow heart rate on a fetal monitor was probably not a good thing, but all I would know to do about it was scream for help. The administrators listened, and created float area “bundles,” limiting the departments nurses are asked to float to by related acuity and skills. The tugboats helped navigate the freighter in this case.   

        I am grateful to have a career that provides so many opportunities for work. In this economy, nursing is one of the few jobs with any security at all. It also provides opportunity for creative souls.