louise louise you did what you pleased

so i'm reading a biography on Louise Nevelson.  it's been eye opening as i didn't know anything about her, in fact until a year or so ago i'd never heard of her until a blog friend mentioned her.  i think i steered away from knowing more about her because what little i heard wasn't good and i didn't have room in my head for another fucked up artist. i guess for whatever reason, i have room now.  there are a few things about her life as an artist that is relate-able and much that is not.  i'm here today working on my little wood assemblages and keep thinking about her struggles and entry into the art world.  i'm hearing words i've recently read....someone asking her how she got into certain art shows and her response was 'why, fucking of course'.  i'm visualizing her constant moving from studio to studio, living in utter poverty and yet wining and dining with the best of them. her beauty lent her many opportunities she might not of had otherwise.  her friends and family were constantly supporting her in financial and material ways.  i'm realizing i have no beauty to fall back on.  which is probably a more honest way to get through life.  nor do i have a whole lot of support, which again, probably just as well as i want to make my own way and unless someone wants to buy my art i don't really want sums of money shoved into my pockets with some unspoken onus hanging in between us.  it does leave me a little hopeless feeling, i keep hearing that artists need patrons.  philanthropists.  and i look around at the few online artists i know who are 'making it' and they seem to have connections and contacts that leave me in the dust.  

got me wondering if i should try to find an agent?  anyone ever done that?  i know nothing about this and don't feel a pull to do it but i also know sitting here in huntsville isn't exactly being perched at the hub of it all.  i hadn't thought about this until last week when i visited an artist out of town who was showing me her portfolio and made mention of 'this was when i had an agent and got lots of jobs'.  she was commissioned to do murals in homes.  when she said that i thought huh. is that a possibility?  do unknown emerging artists get agents?  i suppose i'll have to get on my google.

some other interesting things about louise that leave me humbled is learning that she too had storage issues and after one particularly large show (of which nothing sold) she had her son help her destroy and burn most everything in the back yard.  she would go through intense periods of paralyzing depression after a show.  she started binge drinking in her late 40's.  it sounds as if she refused to live on anyone elses' terms but her own and she paid dearly for it.  i have to respect that.  as i sit here avoiding calling the office and saying yes i will clean those two apartments today.  i dont want to clean and make thirty or forty dollars.  its gross work and wears me down.  i'll avoid it today.  i just want to work, MY work.  am i insane that i would spend a week working on pipe vases that i can never recoup the time in worth, but i would rather do that than work for someone else doing something that makes me want to kill myself?  i keep thinking something must be wrong with me.  perhaps that is why i'm enjoying reading louise's bio.  she found a strength that i've yet to find in her decision not to bend.  she was on a journey, a search for herself as a person.  right or wrong she adhered to it.  she knew she shouldn't have kids but she had one during her brief marriage.  she knew she was a horrible mother and she probably lived a much harder life than she needed to but art was what seemed to make her heart beat.  i guess it's good my big drinking days are over.  my bar days gone.  i'm too fragile to live a corrupt life anymore.  i hope i can live honestly and cleanly and not use or be used by others in order to fulfill my hearts desire.  i think it's important.

it's also fascinating to read how she grew as an artist.  her diving into 3-D works, how she yearned for that dimensionality over painting and to learn of her journey into that world, the why's and how's of it all.  i'm still reading the book and i think it's actually good for me right now.  a little daunting,a little depressing because even back in the 50's and 60's her work in wood was considered antiquated, unfinished and awkward. wood work even back then was considered DONE TO DEATH.  and here i am, my wood assemblages in their nascency. feeling like i've just discovered the secrets to the universe.  makes me realize there probably isn't much chance of anyone giving a horses ass about what i'm doing but fuck me, i have to do it.  better than cleaning a filthy apartment.  at least today.


merci33 said...

my email messages close with one of my favorite nevelson quotes "what good is your life if you don't risk it."

since 1982 i have read and re read the provocative 'dawns + dusks':
conversations with diana mackown.

nevelson clearly walked an edge that most off us have neither guts nor gumption for...and yet...she is a powerful model for so many of us as we reinvent ourselves and continue to move out into the world. i learned a good deal from her regarding the concept of 'letting go' and from that became quite comfortable burning yesterday's work to make room for todays.

agents, whether literary or fine arts oriented can only work with us and never for us...i had years of success with them as well as without them...we still need the same level of passion, enthusiasm (high and trusted) and willingness to endure rejection.

as i mentioned when you posted to my blog (thanks for that paula) regardimg this dilema...it takes courage to stand where you are...it's an honest place...it feels raw and squirmy...and it's where we sometimes have to be...until a door, or window opens and we take wing once again.

i send a vision of you rising above this battlefield so that you can soar.

me said...

thank you for this donna. dawns and dusk: conversations with diana mackown, not privy to that. thanks too for sharing more about your experience and your encouragement and yes, hope. its nice to expose myself here and feel not alone.

ArtPropelled said...

Louise Nevelson intrigues me too. I love the size of some of her pieces and would really appreciate seeing them face to face.

San said...

I loved this impassioned post, Paula. You vent with style.

And now I want to read the Nevelson book. I've seen some of her art in person and really loved it.

paula said...

funny thing san, i'm not so sure i like most of her work. i'm more interested in her!
lucky you to have seen it in person, its hard to get a feel for it online.
lets see a visit from you means...your online...you've made a rare blog post i'll bet you anything. off i go. good to hear from you. you always come when i hollar.

Seth said...

Having seen her work in person a number of times in NYC I know how powerful it is. But I admit that I do know very little about her. I cannot believe that she actually burned her work because she had no space!

Kim Hambric said...

Paula, what a post. I feel I shouldn't even make a peep.

Can't help you on the agent idea. Can't help you with work advice. Can't even suggest reading material 'cause you do the research first. I feel so bitty and stupid right now. What advice could I possibly give?

Paula, I'm guessing there aren't many artists of talent and/or renown that just sit in the sun all day lazily doodling. No. Those people have passion. Something that, to put it bluntly, you have a shitload of.

Sometimes, when I come to this blog, I feel the need to duck. Self Taught Artist is like a firehose with no one holding onto it. Its got power, it can do the job, its just not properly directed at the fire.

Paula is an artist. Paula is not an apartment cleaner. Sometimes (just sometimes) you have to do something so you can eat and sleep under something solid. I'm guessing you don't want to go the Nevelson route and try "fucking, of course". Perhaps a little agent research is in order.

paula said...

seth, it almost sounds as if she has destroyed more work than she saved. at one point she had 900 sculptures in her house which was bought out by the city as they were going to build apartments. making/showing/and destroying was a big part of her life. giving much away as well.

kim. you arent puny. and i get just as much out of your blog. you made me chuckle about the firehouse analogy. i always feel so boring. i know i'm not an apartment cleaner but it feels like my life will never get easier. enough of the violin sonata. and you are right the methods she chose aint gonna cut it for me. thank you for being here.