Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing. Making your unknown known is the important thing.
—— Georgia O’Keeffe
Me: “What do you think makes someone an artist Mom?”
Mom: “You can’t call yourself an artist unless you get paid to do it.”
Me: “Am I an artist? I don’t make my living at it.”
Mom: “Oh you get paid to do music sometimes right? That makes you an artist.”
Me: “Are you an artist?”
Mom: “I’m just me Brian, don’t be silly.”
My grandmother was a folk artist. Mom agrees with me on that. She painted on saw blades and pieces of old wood and sold her work from a little stand in the heart of the tourist center of Old Silver Dollar City, Missouri. She also made dolls and rhinestone-covered outfits for country and western singers.
Goldie Ernie (we never called her grandma) once told me that it was from her that I got the artist in me.
Mom has always made things too. Like her mother, she paints, sews and likes to decorate things… just so. But (as you can see from the above conversation) Mom would never call herself an artist. She would never make any of her unknowns known. I have a feeling the reason for that has nothing to do with being able to sell any of the lovely things she makes.
Mom would never try to do that. She would never think that any of these things she makes would be something someone might want to buy. Perhaps someday I’ll come closer to understanding why.
I walk around my mother’s house, wondering. Scattered among her small but tastefully selected collection of art, crafts, artistically displayed objects and objet d’art… are things I made, things her mother made and things she has made. I’d like to think she treasures them all equally, but sometimes I wonder.
Earlier today, Mom told me that I was the child who always seemed to need much more attention than the others. She said she was never able to give me all that I wanted. She just didn’t have it in her. Mom said that might explain why I went into the arts and kept at it despite the fact that I could never make my living as an artist.
I look at my mother now… today. Now that we are alone I say very little. I try to behave in a manner which demands as little attention from her as possible. I want to give her MY attention. I’m not sure I’m successful. My non-attention-seeking behavior may only be making her uncomfortable. I don’t know and I don’t ask. It doesn’t matter.
My goal on this trip is to deepen my connection with the people who mean the most to me. No one means more to me here than my mother and I’ve told her so many times during our visit. I think our connection has deepened, but I see now that when my siblings were here, I spent a lot of time insisting on making my unknowns known to them.
I see now that Mom may have seen this (perhaps only unconsciously) as me once again demanding more attention than she could give.
Perhaps, perhaps not… I may never know. Perhaps my feelings of unsuccessful connection is just more of my own shit coming up. Shit in need of a place to be put. In a pile.
Poop in a pile.
Tomorrow my mother and sister and I, will drive the four-hour drive up north to the part of Wisconsin where I went to college thirty years ago. I will once again have a lot of opportunities to be the performer… the artist, that I’ve grown so comfortable being. To get the attention, I so love to get.
Mom and Stacy will drive back to Rio and I have no idea when I’ll see them next. At eighty five, it’s not unreasonable to think this could be the last time I see Mom but I doubt that.
Goldie lived to be nearly a hundred.