The Merlin Residency and Cloud Hidden, Whereabouts Who Cares?
For all of my energy and output, I’ve never been invited to a professional residency. Of course, I would have to apply for the honor, and that would mean seeking approval from strangers, which is never a good thing. Usually I manage to nip pride dreams in the bud for the benefit of my ego and sanity. Practicing on the path of least resistance (as a painter) means never having to admit you’re a failure for longer than three minutes. So no judges, please. Paint, breathe like a cat or 18th century Haudenosaunee, and make believe with the children.
My friend just bought a fixer-upper house across town. This is a beginning of a new day for him, for private reasons I won’t get into. He took a trip out to his hometown far away to visit family and old friends. I offered to care for his dog, Merlin. My friend offered to pay me in brandy, beer, canvases and use of his home studio. I called it the Merlin residency and voila! Five days of life expressed. No judges. No duress beyond seeing to a dog’s frequent urge to urinate on human property. Good humor and a good-natured housemate. Merlin spent the first couple mornings in the studio lounging beneath my friend’s desk. By the third day (after he realized I’d walk, feed and treat him like an artist), he came over to my paint table and sat with me. Dogs, cats and human children make the best residency hosts. Now to mark it on my resume and confuse the heck out of the biographers:)
From Henry Miller:
The remarkable thing to observe in children’s work is that the child gives the impression of having done it with his whole being. They surrender themselves completely to what is in hand. Whereas even the biggest artist has to wage a constant fight against distraction. He is conscious not only of the future opinions of the critics, the price it will fetch (or not fetch!), the value of his tubes, the nicety of his choice of color or line, but also the temperature of the room, the stains on the floor, the bath he forgot to take, and so on.
I do not bathe myself or my charges at the residency. I came home to shower each day and left Merlin content in his reverie.
I Go Away. Please stop giving.
There’s a lot of time to think at a residency, especially while out walking your host. Lately I’ve been feeling cornered and pressed. Ever since returning from the forced, longer holiday in Spain, there doesn’t seem to be any time to not think about time. The schedule is always full and the worry dial turned up a couple notches. I want to paint when I want to paint, write when I like to write, practice cooking, music, walking and sitting without constant attention to the ten thousand things. Some moments I wish I had a normal job with a normal manager in a normal setting, to normalize my dreams up into a crystal ball of an annual two weeks’ paid vacation (if so lucky). Then I could do what was asked of me and “play out” in my head that wonderful two weeks like it was just the best heaven-to-come each year. But that’s not right because that’s not the way, being dependent on the demands of another, in this case a job that pays me just enough to live well pathetically.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I want to stop it all and just be.
Only yesses and no’s, no more explanations.
But it won’t happen without periods of guilt and heavy repenting. The culture does not want artists. So I don’t want the culture. I want to please Rose, family and friends, and teach by example, live right, act right, make right. I want to go quiet. I want to walk into the clouds with a picnic basket and never tell a single soul.
I know this for sure: It can’t happen while posting regular updates on social media.
So I will be opting out of the noise as soon as will power possible. The email remains because it’s always be great to sell a painting, and nowadays bills get paid easier this way I’m told. I’ll keep Venmo® and PayPal® for the same reason.
My email: email@example.com
I’ll also keep this Substack to post to friends and family my ongoing deprogress and debilitating circular dualism.
Facebook and Instagram accounts will remain with pinned posts, likewise, in order to sell paintings to someone someplace someday out there.
The smartphone goes bye-bye. I’ll purchase one of those emergency phones for my heart attack in the Adirondacks or on the studio floor, or both.
Today I will ask a carpenter to make 10 big frames for me to stretch canvas on and paint. Then I will show them in an exhibition that nobody has to come to because they think I need them to come.
Finally, to those who have financially supported my painting, writing, and this blog. I am indebted to you. I know your names and see your faces. You have made me feel relevant, which is the only career joy a properly housed and fed artist desires. I must ask you to please stop giving. Unless you know a gallery that is looking to represent someone like me. Then please share my email.
The garden is lushing. It calls me to weed and wonder. Here are the rest of my paintings from the Merlin Residency. And here is my call to depart.