I’m not an anxious person. The future doesn’t torment me much. But I obsess over dumb shit like unresponded-to email and USPS tracking that doesn’t update correctly. Then, once a thing is done—no matter how big or little—it disappears from my consciousness.
The last couple months, the most important upcoming thing was my collage show at the Rainbo Club. I dug through my stash of thrift-store frames, laid out dozens of pictures all over the floor and walls of my studio, and pictured the walls and display cases in my mind’s eye, swapping, rotating, and rearranging the show over and over. Because I’ve hung art there for twenty-five years, I can pretty much curate an exhibit virtually, in advance.
The morning of the hang, I wake early. It’s hours till I can even go get brunch, so I do something I haven’t done in awhile: I start a painting. I’ve made a bunch of sketches of the crap on my studio table. It sits between my armchair and the studio wall, where work-in-progress hangs, so I look at the bottles, jars, brushes, tape rolls, and assorted detritus, a million times a day. More accurately, it’s not that I look at it, but past it or through it. This is exactly how I get the vast majority of my subject-matter. It has to be around and unremarkable a long time before I actually notice and think to maybe draw it.
The painting goes okay. The main thing it does is get my mind off the task ahead. By the time I’m out the door to go eat, I’ve forgotten I’m hanging a show in a couple hours.
The Zipcar I pick up in Pilsen is all smoked out. Whoever had it before must’ve invited a bunch of their friends to ride all night blowing blunts. They were murder on the Subaru’s brakes too. The poor thing screeches and howls anytime I touch the pedal. But the thirty collages fit no problem once I put the backseats down and that’s all that really matters. The hang itself goes off without a hitch. I’m done in under two hours. Then I return the bruised and battered SUV to Pilsen and pedal back to the bar in Wicker Park.
A bunch of friends show up for the opening and I even sell a couple pieces. It’s all I could’ve hoped for. Now the show can live its own life the next five weeks. I’ll visit from time to time but my part in it is over. It’s good not to have all that work here. Makes me feel lighter. I’m hoping I don’t have to bring much of it back. Every time I bring artwork home after a show feels like failure. Like it didn’t do what it was made to do.
I finish the painting of the studio clutter over the next couple days. It’s hanging on the studio wall now, just beyond the space and objects depicted in it. I’m thinking about the book that will come out soon, about maybe illustrating a friend’s poem, about the books I have to read and review. Not exactly worried about any of it, just preoccupied. I should be happy about the Rainbo show but I don’t know how to do that. The fact it came off the way I’d designed it to should be more satisfying than it is. But I just go on to the next thing.
Is that normal? Is it okay? I don’t know any other way to be.