Today I went to the vernissage of an art show, Monstrosities; fibre work from Concordia undergraduates. My friend Taters McBeastly was there. He was sitting on a little stool, next to a shredded paper cast of a doorframe and a wall full of decorated children’s boots. Across the room from him was Colleen, his knitted soulmate monster. He seemed just fine there, but the room was white and windowless and filled mostly with people who didn’t know me and a few who did but didn’t come over to talk to me. There’s only so many times you can circulate a room of a dozen art works, pretending to be deeply contemplating their concept and construction.
Galleries make me feel tight-chested. I keep my eyes low, my breathing shallow. I restrain my hands, when all I want to do it to touch the rough, soft, silky surfaces; I begrudge the gallery space for denying me this. I feel blessed to have been able to participate in this show, to have my work validated as art in this traditional sense -- congratulations, you’re showing in a real gallery, even if it is only a student show -- I must have done something right, as far as this art business goes. But I found no joy in that space. Every once in a while I will, I will find something in a gallery or museum that makes me want to split open with happiness, or cave in from the weight of mutual understanding, but that is in spite of, rather than because of, the space. The things I love about art, the things that drive me to make make make stuff, are found outside these spaces, and when you put them inside galleries and museums and put up the red tape, the do-not-step-over-the-line, the please-do-not-touch, they usually die. If I want to continue to make stuff -- and oh, I do – I need to accept that these spaces are not for me. I need to focus on play and joy and discovering, touching and interacting and connecting with others. I need to make it accessible and public and unpretentious. I can’t imagine anything I want to do more than make art all my life -- whatever that means -- and nothing I want to do less than spend it enduring social claustrophobia, mincing words in small white spaces.
When you all said you didn’t want to make art anymore, my heart broke, but I think I’m catching up to you, starting to understand what you may have meant.
My biggest regret of the day is that I did not put a ‘hug me’ sign next to Taters.