If you read my About page, you know I consider myself both an artist and a writer. But I’m also Filipinx American, a freelance copyeditor, experimental poet, and a nonprofit co-chair. As a writer, I’m “experienced,” in the sense that I’ve taught writing and literature, several of my books have been published, and I’ve had poems and essays published in various journals. But in the last few years I’ve put a lot of focus on making art—that old dream of being a visual artist—after a “hiatus” of about 30 years.
And this is my “disclosure moment”: I’m an “old newbie” also known as “emerging” artist. That is, I don’t have a bunch of solo exhibits on my resume—not even close. While I’m working hard at creating art, I’ve had only one “bricks & mortar” show, a two-person exhibit in Carmel, CA, and part of a group exhibit/conversation at North Fork. I’m looking to have more, although—a little hard to do during a pandemic! A multiple-artist exhibit I participated in 30 years ago hardly counts (although I do cherish the memory of a reviewer writing that I “paint with a vengeance”).
So I’m an old/newbie artist struggling, like many other artists, during this pandemic, trying to figure out how to make art, sell it, navigate the art world in uncertain times. My age (late 60s) has some pros and cons when it comes to this business of being an artist: After all, I’ve had some experience as a published writer (including plenty of failures and disillusionments). I’d like to think I’m somewhat prepared for ups and downs in the art world—and that I’m not going into it completely wide-eyed. I’ve also done lots of networking, and have developed connections, over time, which can be helpful. I know a thing or two about building community.
While energy, and the ability to look at the world through “fresh” eyes is a plus for those who are young, I suspect it does not make being a youthful emerging artist that much easier than being older; being a young artist has its own particular challenges.
On the other hand, when you’re old, you have to deal with a peculiar type of stereotyping, people basically expecting you to keel over and die any moment, or to have an embarrassing failure of memory because you’re—you know—old. People don’t expect innovation from you. They figure you’re moving towards your end, although, hey—you might be worth investing in for just that reason. Ugh.
Ashton Applewhite, author of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism, says “We’re aging from the minute we’re born. Dying is a discreet biological event that happens at the end of all that living. Don’t conflate them.” I figure you keep working, you keep moving forward, until you don’t. Just like any child, teen, or middle-ager, I’m figuring this out as I go. I know that for me, being an artist is about thinking, visualizing, going deep into process—and it’s about community (artists and their art do not exist in a vacuum). Art is FUN, but it also means constantly challenging myself. Yet these processes, and how they materialize, remain a tantalizing mystery.
Two from the “Geomancy” series: graphite & colored pencil on heavy paper, 18 x 18”:
I started the Geomancy series after an open-ended drawing session while listening to “Pilgrim,” an ambient, adjustable loop on MyNoise.net (which, btw, is the most amazingly curated collection of ambient sounds I’ve ever heard online; the basic collection of sounds is free, but for a one-time fee of $5 you get the whole, constantly updated and expanding, collection). Anyway (where was I?), I started drawing without a plan, and this strange “topography” emerged in the process. This led to a new focus on line drawing (rather than painting in acrylics), using graphite and colored pencil (and occasionally ink) that I’ve been pursuing for a few months, now.
Postal Package Art, collage and ink on cardboard:
Since the pandemic started, my partner and I have been ordering a few things online, but we’ve also received various gift packages from family, so a pile of cardboard has been slowly building up in the corner of the front room. Rather than throw it all away, I decided to make some recycled art, and have been doing a combination of collage and ink drawing on the boards. I’ve started to appreciate the “mystical” postal codes and symbols on the sides of packages; the patterns that emerge in my drawing seem to be a response to that (and sometimes I make up my own codes and symbols).
Books, Sites, Newsletters
Elsa Valmidiano’s Slicing Tomatoes site features fantastic art by pinay artists, as well as Valmidiano’s poetry and prose. Also, check out her new book of powerful and revealing essays and stories, We Are No Longer Babaylan.
The short stories in Veronica Montes’ chapbook, The Conquered Sits at the Bus Stop, Waiting, are precise in their recounting of memory and detail, and very moving. I also love reading her newsletter, Nesting Ground 2.0.
Enjoying the Quick Brown Fox newsletter from Salman Ansari, also known as @daretorant on Twitter. Check out his YouTube channel, where he explores—in a very open-ended way—various issues, such as the following, where he contemplates the “meaning and purpose of work in the pandemic world.”: