Since 2016 the handbasket that is the United States has been on a non-stop flight to its proverbial destination.1 The landing gear is down and our seats are in the full upright and locked position – I advise strapping in and bracing for impact.
There have been some terrible years for the US during my lifetime: in 1968, Martin Luther King Jr., Robert Kennedy, and Andy Warhol were shot, and nearly 17,000 troops were killed in Vietnam; in both 1994 and 1995, over 49,000 people died from AIDS-related complications; in 2001, there were the September 11 terrorist attacks, in which nearly 3000 people died, and their aftermath. Eventually we’ll see how history will view 2020, although I’m confident I know without the benefit of hindsight what the results of that exercise will be. Up to this point, we’ve seen over 226,000 deaths from COVID-19 (“their new hoax”); over 8.5 million acres burned in wildfires (“… you got to get rid of the leaves”); social unrest of a magnitude unheard of in decades (“[Black Lives Matter] is a symbol of hate”); and complete and utter ineptitude, amorality, narcissism, nepotism, bigotry, and corruption in the highest levels of government (“No, I don’t take responsibility at all”).2
On a personal level, one of my closest friends passed away in July. For me, 2020 has been the worst year ever – that includes 2001, when a friend’s body was found and the police called me because my phone number was in his wallet. I was asked to call his family to tell them to contact the “hospital.” It includes 2004, when I was laid up for months following a car accident and I had to learn how to walk again. It’s been worse than 2013, when a friend was killed by a tow truck that ran a red light and hit his car, and a month later my grandmother passed away. As horrible as all those things were, they were at least knowable; they allowed for an emotional process. 2020 has been worse because of the uncertainty of it all, the knowledge that our health is reliant on other people doing the right thing, and the profound dread of what could happen next Tuesday.
One often hears from artistic people that “[my vocation] saved my life.” I’ve never really thought that, but during these recent months, I have felt that painting has kept me on the good side of the mental health line. It’s kept me busy, given me something on which to focus, allowed me some sense of accomplishment while isolated. Even so, I haven’t had an easy time of it,3 and the resulting show is not the one I had envisioned a year ago. I had been exploring ideas while working on three-dimensional mixed media constructions, ideas which I had planned on integrating into paintings for this show. Unfortunately, due to my scattered state of mind, I was unable to deliver on that – only one piece in the show is made with anything beyond paint on canvas. None of the pieces are connected conceptually; they too are scattered, so perhaps this is a perfectly appropriate show for me to mount as we near the end of this shattered year.
News from Home will run from November 5 to December 5, 2020 at Archival Gallery in Sacramento CA.
1 Mixed Metaphors “R” Us.
2 Four actual quotes from he who is currently squatting in the White House. Squatting in more ways than one.
3 I am very aware that a lot of people have had it much worse than I.