Wednesday, February 2, 2011

so, an update

It's one month later. How has my "make art every day" mantra been going?

Well, I'm reminded of the five-year plan I was encouraged to make as an undergrad in my senior thesis class. On Saturday I'll be participating in a school-to-professional forum at Carnegie Mellon University this weekend, so I dug up my senior packet and five-year plan to take a look at what I thought I had in store for myself back in 2005:

spring 2006: graduate from CMU
summer 2006: work part-time and find a job in one of the following cities: Austin, Portland, San Francisco, Chicago
fall 2006: relocate to new city and begin working part or full time at a nonprofit institution
end of 2006: apply to grad school for the fall of 2007
2007: start grad school

Had I followed this, I'd probably have an MFA by now, and I'd almost certainly be living somewhere else. For those of you following along at home, I've managed to stay in Pittsburgh, work 3 years in retail, get married, buy a house, and ... not go to grad school. On the other hand, I've had over ten shows in the last few years, made enormous strides in my art, had an awesome residency and later job in Chautauqua, and, well, hey, I'm married and I own a house. And finally, after a few years of retail and unemployment I did score a job at an awesome nonprofit. Not so bad.

While I was poking around on my hard drive I also uncovered a lot of old cover letters for job opportunities long past (unsurprisingly, a few were for the Mattress Factory). The letters and my plans were a window into my 21-year-old self, who, at the time, was ready to hit the diving board running and plunge headfirst into a mix of prestigious jobs and higher education.

Let it suffice to say that life rarely unfolds the way in which you intend. I snagged the first steady job I could find out of college and intended for it to be a temporary stop on my way to career greatness. I found myself in the same place two years later treading water in a job I wasn't super thrilled about, plagued by doubt about my situation, my education, even why I was making art and how to deal with it existing solely in the echo chamber of my own judgment. But, after a residency, a year of unemployment, then returning to my old job, and finally moving on to the Mattress Factory, I do feel like I've gone somewhere.

Let it also suffice to say that as a young person ready to flee the college scene I really underestimated Pittsburgh. I confess I thought the city had nothing to offer beyond a few larger museums, but I've found a lot of small galleries, local talent, and a supportive and genuine atmosphere that has been a good place to develop as an artist. I do think we are a city poised on the brink of a greater role in arts, technology, and re-invention than we've had before.

Okay, so, what I am really taking up all this space to say is, it's hard to predict in what direction life will take you. Best laid plans of mice and men yadda yadda. Lesson learned, although sometimes I get pretty down when I think about how much I should have accomplished five years out of school.

Long story short, I broke my promise to myself in early January and, feeling creatively uninspired by nature fast asleep in the dead of winter, haven't made much of anything. Tonight I'm about to sit down and try my hardest to re-start.


  1. get re-started?!...I thought you might like the "dead" of winter...and you left out the part about the STEELERS and the STAIRWAY TO SEVEN!

    Man(and woman) can't live on art alone!

  2. I thought I liked winter too, but I have discovered no, not really. and poo on your football... I'll probably get a car window smashed in by a roving crowd of crazed fans no matter what the outcome. Steelers lose? Pittsburgh riots. Steelers win? Pittsburgh riots.

  3. "how much I should have accomplished five years out of school"

    Erm... did you not listen to yourself 4 paragraphs above? You've accomplished a lot. And why are you listening to your 21-year-old self anyway? She was sharp but didn't know there were multiple paths to accomplishment.

  4. haha, S, I knew you were out there lurking on the internet. Thank you for bringing me back to unbiased reality. ;)

    I've learned it's pretty impossible to predict what life will throw at you, or, how you change as you adapt to it. All you can do is make the best decisions from where you stand in time and be present.

  5. also: comparing yourself to others can be really self-destructive. Unfortunately in the age of instant information via the internet, that habit is nearly unbreakable.