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Saturday, October 4, 2014

Half Measures

Greenwich Village, 1958

"Another painting was started a week ago. It's all halves of things, half women eating half fruits in half chairs. I'm not sure if Nell-mom's done with it because I think she wants to leave it half finished." --The Beat on Ruby's Street

Sometimes I hear Ruby telling people her mom is an artist and I have to smile. When she was little she jumped all around the studio and I couldn't have her up there but now she loves showing off my stuff to her friends. Sweet, huh?

What we don't talk about is how conflicted you get, how you wish you had support or someone who believed in you and could back you so you don't have to work. It's supposed to be fun to work in an art store but it's not, really. It's about the cash register and cleaning up and getting people what they want.
Every time you want to think about your painting you get interrupted. And I clean houses too, though Ruby forgets that. Her dad's on the road all the time and leaves the kids and house to me. And forgets to send money home a lot of times.

So he's thinking about his stuff and I'm thinking about mine. Except it always seems like his stuff is something we both think about, because he doesn't work in a store or clean houses. (Does juggling count? I guess it has to because he brings home some bread once in a while after doing it.)

What happens to the people who don't sell their work around here? I see the older people sometimes, toothless ladies begging for change, and wonder if that'll be me? This talk about Ruby going to school scares me because how could we afford to buy her the kind of clothes and shoes she needs?

This Levitt is like all the social workers - they tell you what you're supposed to do to be like the man, and give you no real way to get there.

What happens to the artists who can't manage to make it? And don't you need time to make it, time to invest in yourself and make mistakes and come back and get it right and innovate, try things no one else is trying and no one else is doing?

I keep wanting time, and I keep losing it. Where does it go? Why do some people get it and do nothing with it? Why doesn't Ruby's dad ever think about helping with anything -- cleaning up after a meal or washing a dish or getting breakfast?

I had three ideas this morning and lost them by the time I got to work. They were all ideas about how to link three paintings in a triptych, some kind of panorama but they're gone. Eaten up by the noise of trucks and blinking traffic lights and guys whistling and calling out to me while I'm working; getting chewed out by my boss and dropping all the colored pencils.

I keep wanting to be a real artist. I keep being afraid I'll never be able to call myself one. Because you can't really do this stuff part time. You can but it's only a half measure. And half measures get you nowhere.

That may be the best painting I have right now - my half ladies doing half things. That's because it's me-- trying hard to become whole.

--Nell Tabeata

This Lego sculpture is from the Nathan Sawaya exhibit at the Flinn Gallery in Greenwich, Connecticut. Home page:

Apple painting: Jackson Muenster