Paper, Perseverance, and Pommes au Tahin (Apples with Tahini)

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My head is full of numbers, hours, and ingredients. I’m planning meals for Rinpoche’s retreat this week. Hopefully I’ll get to snap photos for you whilst it all goes down. I cooked up (no pun intended, but oy, there it is) a new recipe for a gluten-free eggplant tart, and I’m hoping to sneak in a batch of ice cream too.

My art supply crisis turned out splendidly. More than anything, I needed cold-press watercolor paper to start a series of drawings that will make up one part of a larger installation. When Thomas, a.k.a. Mr. Money, told me he could order it online and it would arrive in maybe eight days, I almost started to cry. He saw my face and said, “Je comprends ton angoisse.” I understand your anguish. Two hours later, he came back with a list of every possible art and paper supply store within driving distance. What a guy.

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In the end, we wound up taking a field trip to the last artisanal papery in France, complete with a windmill and all. I left with ten sheets of large format, 400 gram, fine grain paper, and it’s freaking handmade. I also got to see where it was made, from a room-filled with cottony fluff to one hung wall-to-wall with individual sheets up to dry. Not bad for a crisis resolution.

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Pretty much every other minute was spent with my head buried in menu planning and portioning for the inauguration. The day all of the numbers for food quantities were due to the budgeting department, I barely saw daylight and stayed in front of the computer until long past dark. We rewrote the menus three times in one week, and every time I had a new heart attack about how I was going to rearrange my schedule around the inauguration to accomplish all of the cooking in addition to installing the art piece. In the end, we decided to split the menu half between in-house cooking and half between a caterer, to save the head ache of renting an infinitude of ovens, fridges, and freezers we don’t have any place to put. Halle-freaking-lujah.

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I don’t know if this applies to life in general or just to my life lately, but I’ve noticed that if you hold it together and keep your nose to the grindstone, the results can be nigh miraculous. I’ve also noticed that when I start to doubt this fact, it really helps to pause and have a snack to cheer myself up. Lately my favorite snack is an apple cut into slices and munched with an ample portion of tahini, even better if you dress up the sesame purée into a full-on dip. It’s so simple that it hardly counts as a recipe, but for those of you who like numbers, voilà: mix three tablespoons tahini with one teaspoon honey and one teaspoon lemon juice. Snack, chill out, and wait for life to come to its senses.

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The Meaning of Rejection

Veins: for Ellsworth, acrylic and ink on unprimed canvas, 14″ x 14″

On Monday night, I received an e-mail from Sylvia White with the subject line “This is why I hate my job.” That’s a pretty clever and even compassionate way to alert some one that they’ve been rejected from your show. I was disappointed, but not heartbroken, a reaction that caught me surprise.

It used to be that on the rare occasions when I mustered my courage and submitted art or writing to juried competitions, rejection left me crestfallen for months, practically for ever after if I chanced to recall the slight. I would question my competence. I would question my creative instincts. I would question my ability to ever improve, to ever create anything quality at all.

Veins: On the Warpath, acrylic and ink on unprimed canvas, 14″ x 14″

I suspect that what’s changed is this: I have faith in my own work. I used to  wish desperately that I could be an artist, while I secretly feared that I didn’t have sufficient talent or brilliance to claim that role. I looked for affirmation from others; every rejection felt like confirmation of my deepest fear. It was like I was afraid the world would judge me unworthy, take away my creativity rights, and make me go get a day job. Then some where along the way I learned that no one takes away your right to create. You only stop being an artist, or anything really, if you give up. Even if you’re broke, even if you’re working as a babysitter, or a bartender, or a pastry cook, you can make work; you can think from creation; you can claim your identity. Only I can say that I’m an artist, and only I can say that I’m not.

Veins: at Midnight, acrylic on unprimed canvas, 14″ x 14″

And guess what? I’m an artist. I paint because it brings me joy, because I have stories to tell, because I am interested in how the world looks on canvas. I’m proud of the work I’m creating. There will always be places that don’t want to show my work and people who aren’t interested in it, but there are also places and people that do and are. Because I’m committed to my art, to making it and sharing it, I’m also committed to tipping my hat to those that don’t want it and then continuing on to find those that do.