Improbable, Impractical and Inconvenient
I have a crisis of purpose every day. Generally, it is the same crisis repeated and/or reinforced by different circumstances, thoughts or failures. Ranging from negative-nancy speed bumps to debilitating, depressive catastrophes (and all mental trolley stops in-between), most instances culminate in my audibly saying to myself: “what the fuck am I doing!”.
The artist life is strife. It is digging couch quarters for gasoline. It is selling a painting to afford the epoxy to finish another painting that may or may not sell. It’s your festival booth being passed by 50,000 fair-goers and feeling slighted by each one. Sometimes it is composed of looking around your studio and saying: “What am I doing? All of these paintings are dogshit.”
Here’s what is even more difficult to stomach: I have other options. I could easily mimic the successes and happiness of those around me. I have really successful non-artist role models. My family, my siblings, my friends and my former career’s contemporaries are killing it- and I am proud of them. I am proudest of my wife. She gives to everyone, works her ever-loving butt off and is truly, to me, a model of grace. She deserves more from me.
I am not allowed to complain. I chose this. Since I do not afford myself the seemingly very common action of blaming others for my circumstances, all pointed fingers point directly toward my inability, my poor effort or my lack of ingenuity. The larger, most nagging aspect of this train of thought is that I have chosen an improbable pursuit.
All of this, however, is only half (maybe less) of the story.
“What the fuck am I doing?” is the wrong question. The question is: “Why am I doing it?”. For me, these two questions, reside on either side of the sea-saw of my crises. “What” is the skinny annoying kid on one side. I try to use “Why” as the wholesome fat kid that turns a simple lever into a powerful catapult to expel my doubts.
My “why” is inconvenient in terms of making a living selling artwork. It is corporeally inconvenient. It doesn’t make me money or get me more run on Instagram. It doesn’t drive clicks to my website. It doesn’t help art galleries or agents want to sell my work.
As you probably know, Varhaus is based upon Romans 12:2.
“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
Leading up to my decision to become a full-time artist, I had existed in an unhappy state. I felt I was doing other’s work that did not coincide with my special gifts (we all have them). I felt limited by those around me. I felt trapped financially from society and mediocrity. I did not feel like I directly owned any of my successes or failures.
I took a sabbatical for six months and it led me to determine a difference between my corporeal goals and my spiritual goals. Romans 12, in general, spoke directly to what I was feeling. It’s important to mention that Romans was gifted to me to study while on a 5-day silent retreat in a Catholic Monastery (Our Lady of Gethsemane). In reading 12:2 and its surrounding context, St. Paul calls us to make our lives a sacrifice to God according to our measure. “To our measure” resonated with me, because he was not giving a formulaic suggestion, but one that we could each determine through prayer and spiritual introspection.
So out of this, I decided that my only goal would be to go to heaven. (For theological clarification, I am Big C Catholic-Faith and Works; not faith, alone; although through God anything is possible.) I considered many aspects of the religious life, but the one I liked best was becoming a monk. Two things stood in my way. One, I was not qualified, Two, I truly wanted to be married. Mixed into this deliberation, out of the blue, God put a paintbrush in my hand at the very same time.
“According to my measure”, I thought. Here are a couple statements to illustrate most honestly my person. Mowing the yard may be the most mentally useless thing on earth, et al. I suspected every curriculum I encountered after the fifth grade to be something that someone else wanted me to think and may not be true. Most of the interesting things in my world happen in my brain. I am extraverted by training and introverted by nature. I want to do only one thing and master it and I want it to be huge and improbable. I have never wanted to be like someone else or do something that practical people do. I am stubborn. I cry at simple romantic comedies. I am romantic about other people’s success. I offer my help to people having people problems, but I am not moving your couch or giving you a ride to the airport. I am not envious. I am not asking for your opinion. I find the aforementioned to be strengths. I’m also a little arrogant...
I resolved in 2015 to use art to get to heaven. I was going to show people that this corporeal ride that we’re currently on isn’t the most important thing. It is not solid, in fact, most of it made up by Man. The banking system, The American Dream, the system for picking up your kid from elementary school, the pressure of a retirement fund are not based on objective truth, they are just methods of organizing society. They’re not real…not at all. I wanted to show people that they are not trapped by employment or location or adversity. It’s all just a systemization of safety, but human safety, not spiritual safety. In short- THEY MADE IT ALL UP-basically,to feel safe.
I decided to make and sell art to show people that you could choose something improbable, impractical and inconvenient to truly serve the greater good and by happenstance, or vice versa, get your soul to heaven.
In order to do so, you must balance the corporeal and spiritual, the seen and the unseen, body and soul, pessimism and optimism, dread and hope. You must be able to balance both physical and metaphysical. You must be able to take two seemingly contrary thoughts and hold them true concurrently. You must be okay allowing the eternal unseen defeat the here and now even though its punching you in the face. You must live the paradox and keep it moving.
I have a crisis of purpose several times a day. It sounds like this in my head:
ME: “What the fuck are you doing?!”
ME: “I’m trying to go to heaven. God will provide.”
ME: “Okay. What do you want to paint, now?”
And somehow God always does…
Thanks as always for supporting Varhaus. Below are some photos of what's hot at the website this month. Merry Christmas to you all! BE NOT CONFORMED!