I've been thinking a lot about transition recently.
Now that we're a quarter of the way into 2010 (can someone tell me how the heck that happened?) I'm beginning to take some inventory of the work that I've done to this point, both commercial and self-initiated ones. I've begun to challenge my level of thought, wondering how to weave in new methods of working and thought into my studio practice.
As I grow and change, so does my work. I wonder if part of the reason why I am so aware and active about reshaping my present and growing it forward is because I was a late bloomer. Growing up gay in a suburb of Toronto fucks with your mind and so you create a moniker, a type of persona for your own protection and for the protection of your family. No, it's not living a lie, but it is a lot of pressure to place on any person who is so young, to make them so aware of the fact that there is a profoundly negative component about themselves that they can't change. There is no comfortable place for them in world, and as a result they crawl into a fold within themselves and present a new face, a new mask, full of creases, tucks and pleats. I was still me, but I had to shield myself from the cleft tongues of those attackers who would try to stab me with their sharp words. Moving forward, I know that I carried my awareness forward, and used art and illustration as a means to express parts of myself that otherwise would have remained dormant inside of me.
Fast forward ahead to my twenties.
It was during this time when I probably experienced a considerable amount of change in my life - so much that I needed to mark them down somehow, to have those life episodes manifested in some tangible form; I felt that I needed to concretize them to remind me of where I had been, and how far I had come.
In my late twenties I took 7 weeks off, to travel to Europe alone, and then to New York, it was about 6-7 years ago I think. I'd been working my ass off for about 3 years, post undergrad, trying to plant myself somehow amidst the community of those illustrators for whom I revered. I began in Paris, took a train into Bilbao, purposely to see the Guggenheim twice, there was an exhibit by the sculptor, Alexander Calder. Previous to this moment I felt no affinity towards his large mobiles. They were just a bunch of pieces of metal that were sprayed with shiny or matte paint, stuck together in various ways, and then hung up on the ceiling. But when I walked into the gallery space which housed so many of Calder's work, both massive and tiny, I began to feel incredibly changed and moved. The sculptures swung ever so slightly as if they weren't moving at all; if I were to walk quickly through the room, I bet I would not even have seen any movement within them, but standing beneath these monoliths and staring upwards like that, I could see the subtleties of motion. Maybe cranking my neck back like that, and staring straight towards the sky was another reason that I felt moved by his work. It's no wonder that when people are seeking out answers or relief, whether religious or not, they turn their heads up towards the sky.
As usual, I went off tangent, I didn't mean to get stuck writing about Bilbao. From there I traveled into Spain, then Portugal, back through Spain and final into Italy, where I spent my last few days in Rome before flying back to Toronto. During this time, I was having many thoughts about leaving Toronto. This sounds very cryptic, I know, but things in my life, both career and personal, needed to change. It's strange when you spend so much time alone, it persuades you to consider your life in a different way, in ways that you otherwise may not have, had you been comfortable within a spot with all of your trappings to keep you safe. Traveling to Europe and staying for 4 weeks alone, meeting some people along the way, but not really experiencing any deep connection with anyone, forced me to think about things at home. I thought about the kind of work that I was doing, the partnership that I had with my first agent, the relationship that I had with my boyfriend of two years, and the kind of illustrator that I wanted to become.
When I arrived home, the first thing that I did was ride my bike throughout the city. I don't know why I did that. I mean, I had traveled so far and seen so many interesting things, met people from around the world, and yet the first thing that I did was ride my bike through downtown Toronto. Shortly after that, I decided to get a tattoo; a half sleeve and chest panel of a tiger, my lunar symbol. I was in a rush to do so because I felt so inspired and both psychology and creatively beaten down and emancipated by my trip that I needed to mark it somehow. No wonder why so many people turn to astrology for guidance (I'm not one of those people who believe in star signs and houses in the sky, but at that moment, I couldn't think of anything else that I wanted to mark my body with; the only thing that I could think of was a tiger - I wonder though, if I were a rabbit, would I still have gone through it?).
Six months later, I left my agent, broke up with my boyfriend and the started to prepare my papers for my move to New York. Part of me wondered if my doing so was escapist, that my feeling of being overwhelmed by the questions that rose during my travels, about my life, about my career, about my past and my present state of happiness caused me to want to lift myself out of the place that I was in. But all I could remember was that I wanted a new life... I wanted a new future.
* I have to give props for the title of this post - it was inspired by the lyrics from the song "Apparitions" by Matthew Good Band.