Hiya, its cool. it ended up being a whirlwind visit, but it was quite a shock to realize that essentially once i got to new york, i had never really left. I really only had a quick opportunity to check in with Cyndi in career services one sticky morning, and to wander the little stretch of campus that I remembered. My baby brother got his degree in construction management and is a field engineer with the company doing renovations on Sarasota Memorial, so it was weird to see the city through his daily grind, and super strange to just wander onto campus without having to provide a ton of credentials (being a figure model in nyc means proving to security guards you belong there constantly). also strange to be able to go to the beach without the constant whistle of lifeguards calling people back into shallower water. And little things, like the shock of the chlorine smell from the fountain at the entrance of SRQ, which took me immediately back to all the trips to theme parks as a kid when my mom was a travel agent and got mad discounts.
After years of wrestling with all the things i am, i now have words to go with the feelings and tears i spent so much of my senior year drowning in, feel free to share any of my experiences with anxious students. I graduated into the recession, and as amazing as my teachers were, a lot of them were at their peak before the internet, and the landscape was quite different then i think a lot of my peers knew how to handle - i think the school has since very much made up for that lost ground, but it does feel a little like my class was caught in a strange vortex at the precipice of a lot of change both internally and economically. So i did what i knew - i folded back in with the fiscal school year as a figure model, first in richmond VA (where i modeled for sterling hundley's classes, attended his first private gallery opening, and had discussions with him where he admitted way back in 2010 that he couldn't survive as an illustrator alone, that teaching had become necessary) and eventually in NYC.
the thing i love about NYC is that it has very different ideas about who and what we are then we often do. I submitted my portfolio to a number of publishing companies, and the one thing i kept hearing back was that my skill set/portfolio was too broad for them to get a sense of my voice. In my head i had trained to be a mercenary, to give people what they wanted, and to keep myself open to respond to what each specific creative problem needed (i'm sure you see lots of problems in that statement) but that comes from an entire worldview i brought in to college with me, certain kinds of survival skills that got me through growing up with a crack addict in the house and no parents who were going to make sure i was not in danger. I didn't know there was any other way to be in the world. I was too busy trying to impress my teachers/surrogate caregivers to pause ever even consider what i enjoyed or wanted. Suddenly being asked to have my own voice by potential employers, to pick a style that i would be trapped in, it was too overwhelming, because i felt like i knew too little about my relationship to the world to let myself be hemmed in. That lack of conviction, fear of commitment to myself and my voice has plagued me throughout my career. In retrospect i have gone really broad and missed what becomes available when one goes deep, though going deep can breed a lack of perspective in my observation. Thiel said to me once in front of the class during a critique 'I thought you were going to be the next (name deleted)', and i think about that a lot. I watch her via social media, and I'm sure she is doing her alma mater proud, but as she continues to ripen into her life it only looks to me like she will continue forever to draw and paint the same nude, white skinned, brown haired 22 year old female and i am confused about why someone would develop these skills and have so little to say with them.
I ended up working in a steel shop out of a series of bizarre circumstances, even though i had never held a power tool before. Suddenly I was in a place where my whiteness, college education and gender were huge strikes against me - I had to consider what else I was composed of to survive. Being submerged in the labor force made it hard to justify drawing, I wondered what my college peers even thought they had to say about the world we all knew so little about. So I took what found me, i've been an industrial welder, a rigger/ironworker doing renovations for the dept of education, a forklift/construction vehicle operator, a carpenter for all the off broadway theatres in nyc and eventually a head carpenter/technical director for theatre and massive installations involving art world heavy weights like marina abramovic and nick cave, running crews of 30+ men building huge structures out of steel and glass and other crazy materials.
After countless 100 hour work weeks for fashion week (happens a few times a year), massive art and antique fairs, building Galas for nyc high society and these art installations funded by those same individuals, i have come to see how much of this world is just throwing parties for rich people, and the disdain with which they treat those that build it, i can no longer bring myself to actively grow my opportunities in this realm. I have seen and done enough theatre to realize the 'off broadway' in nyc is the talent equivalent to community theatre, it just has the patina of nyc, and building/painting those sets is arduous for too little money, the producer's ideas too disconnected from reality for me to even guarantee the safety of my crews.
So i've turned towards film and tv world. NYC is becoming an economic force in tv, and there is a rich independent culture in its film that is kind of like a foil to the shiny studio pictures made in LA, maybe like Laika is to Pixar. I'm tiptoeing towards the Scenic Union, which includes production designers, art directors, storyboard artists, graphic designers and scenic painters. its treated like freelance, only the pay is real and there are health benefits, and after the extreme hard labor i have done to survive, i am wrestling with my sense of self and all the things i have been that will evaporate in the eyes of others, as i hang up my cowboy hat and put on the paint clothes i've hidden for so long. I have always struggled with letting my work define who i am, so in my heart i have been fighting the good fight, proving the world wrong about what women are capable of - but i'm starting to see how all of my efforts have been focused on changing how people perceive me, a real local sense of power, and that may have been an abdication of the power i could have over my own life and the choices i could make about what I'm involved in and take the time to support.
So here I am, tired and confused and about to change shapes. What do you value? what does illustration mean to you? What defines you in your mind? What guides the choices you make? What awarenesses has your unique vantage point offered you about what illustration is/has the power to do/how it manifests in different people? what thread connects the pieces of you and your life/life's work together? what called you to illustration and what calls you to it still?
what threads do you notice in my path? if my life has been defined by fighting to survive - what am i when i no longer have to do that?