A Brain, A Heart, A Home, The Nerve
I ran a gallery in Cleveland, FORUM artspace, with three guys for 5 years, 2010 to 2015. It was so much work, and money was always tight (relying on artists to continuously buy the work of other artists is pretty far down on the viable plans for getting rich quick list. It's a passion project, for better and for worse.) I learned so much, and I miss it.
One of the things I miss most was the goofy side discussions we'd get into, in the way that college kids and recent grads do: that urgent-feeling pop philosophy that allows young people to try on viewpoints like sunglasses in a gift shop, and see what of the world holds fast, and what of the world fades away (or I suppose, more accurately: what of ourselves is real, and what of our identity can be modified.)
Being the only girl in a group of guys is mostly the best. It means sometimes you will be talked over. It means sometimes you will be puzzled or grossed out (I don't have brothers.) But mostly it meant that I was special. That I was able to lend a valuable alternative perspective, and that my priorities for the gallery (for hospitality and marketing), and my skill set (detail work, finishing) helped to round out the group. It's a role I cherished, somewhere between a Wendy and a Tinkerbell, a balancing act between mothering and little sistering.
One discussion I remember distinctly was determining which of us was most like each of the characters in Seinfeld, and then which of us was which of the characters in the Wizard of Oz. Which of the guys would be able to dance around most like Scarecrow, or would look the best surrounded by a full mane of curls? A few beers in, we'd also discuss what we felt we were searching for.
It was during this discussion that I made an important observation, one that has stuck with me in the intervening years: What we perceive ourselves to lack is also what we value the most. When the gang finally makes it to Oz, the Wizard tells them they've had what they thought they needed all along. But the search for something they already possess had, over the course of the journey, come to define them.
At the time I still lived with my parents (part of what made the finances of the enterprise feasible) and could very much identify with Dorothy, the girl in search of a home. In many ways, FORUM was my home away from home. I spent a lot of time there, and we were all building something together piece by piece, in small interactions over chores, in a way that felt more like family at times than artistic collaboration or running a business. In those years after art school, the gallery was often the only place I felt like I could be some nascent version of my adult self.
I also love my parents and loved living with them; and the thought of figuring out how I could ever recreate that feeling of being home, somewhere else, with someone else terrified me. I'm not sure I even believed at that time it could be done.
The truth of course is that I am not solely a Dorothy, any more than I am solely a Tin Man looking for love or a Cowardly Lion looking for courage. What we're looking for is what we're focused on, and what we seek is what we find. Once we find it, we seek something else. To be human is to seek.
There are times in my short life already when I've been them all. I quit the gallery when it was time to set up my adult home in earnest. A year ago this month I got married, and I had a brief few months of post-nuptial, newly nested calm. But lately I feel the wind picking up again, a storm spurring me on to the next great search.
There have been times in my life when I've been more assertive, more of a leader, less afraid to speak up and dive in. The past few years I was so focused on homebuilding, that I've somehow become surprisingly deferential, all too willing to go along and get along.
I recognize this foreign passivity in myself, and am beginning to attack it like a virus. I feel that pull again I always felt as a child and teen, to speak up, to draw attention to what the group is missing. One of the ways I'm relearning to speak up is through this blog. What I feel like I am most lacking, what I'm seeking in myself and increasingly confident I will find next is the nerve.