Done and Not Done / by Naima Lowe

The first incarnation of my project "Mary and Sarah and You and Me: A Series of Tiny Spectacles" was by all accounts a success. We performed the project at The Parlor this weekend, with a lot of help from so many wonderful people, and I can't believe how much I learned from the process. Emmy Bean is a rock star, and such a good collaborative force. I feel so proud of us both.

When I say that it was a success, I don't mean that everything went perfectly, or that everyone loved it, or that we were perfectly happy with all of the outcomes. It was a success in that we stuck to our ideas, pushed ourselves way beyond our usual limits (Naima Acting! Emmy Yelling at People!) but in a way that felt supported and sane and towards good ends. I also feel successful because I feel a few steps closer to doing the sort of work that I've been dreaming of for years, and wishing for the courage and resources to get done. So, with a whole lot of help, not to mention gaffer's tape, wiring, and prayer, I managed to put this thing together. (Video documentation coming soon)

I also feel excited for what the future holds. We have big dreams for this project, in terms of taking it farther and faster and better and more. Next stop seems most likely to be somewhere in Western, MA so that Emmy's community can get a look at the work. Also we're hoping for a New York showing in the late fall or early spring. No details yet, I don't want to jinx it.

My friend Amy Walsh wrote something really keen on her blog about the economics of art-making, as she's been entering a new phase of taking control of the distribution of her work in order to make a reasonable living.

I think about these things as well (what artist doesn't) though in some different ways. I too find myself wondering how much I'm at the mercy of the dream of art stardom, though I feel very lucky to have grown up around many working artists (musicians mostly) who weren't stars, but who made livings, made good work, and had that core of appreciators of their work that made all of it so livable. I've also seen one of those people, who I happen to be very close to, end up in the latter years of his life with relatively few resources at his disposal. It is always hard to see someone you care about suffer in any way, but in light of the ways that I've been trying to pursue my art-life dreams, it feels so frightening.

But I wonder what it is that really scares me so much? Is it really the threat of being broke? I mean, that is a real threat, and something that is on my mind quite often. However, I am a fairly well educated, capable, able bodied person. I have many advantages in this wild world of capitalism working in my favor, including a community of people around me who are invested in my success. I can find work, and I can live cheaper if I need to, and everyone dodges the student loan man for most of their lives, so I think I can handle that.

The real fear, I think, is that I can no longer pretend that I'm "trying" to be an artist in any sense of the word. I am one, in terms of making work that is public, known, recognized, controversial... Some of it is good, some of it isn't so good. I have to stand up for myself and the ideas that I put out into the world, which I suppose I've been doing for a while now, but somehow seems more REAL right now because I'm about to work without the net of being "a student" or "doing this on the side."

In the next few weeks I'm going to go about getting teaching jobs in the arts that pay crap, I'm going to get a studio to work out of, and I'm going to start applying for all the grants and residencies that require things like a portfolio, a bio, a resume, an artists statement...

These are all very reasonable and not at all strange next steps, but somehow they seem so incredible right now...