Just sitting thinking about people I knew, committed artists living and breathing it, who have gone other directions, given up, settled for less. A couple were landscape painters who loved the countryside, loved their brushes and tubes of paint. One had a studio down the hall – his high school buddies would fall in on Friday night from their different professions to drink beer and engage in old familiar conversations, and the other lived up the stairs. Doing other stuff these days. A ceramicist who had a studio across the hall was making free standing figures, finally clock faces and trivets – she knew all the formulas, understood the chemistry, watched the kiln all night while it slowly built up temperature, and she’s gone, too. I’m not making this up.
Their expectations weren’t that high – no one expected to be famous. Their only ambition, and mine, too, was to pay the rent, to buy the materials, to keep going. Not only did they finally find themselves defeated, the artwork they would have made in their maturity never happened. The people who might have owned their work, lived with their art, and enhanced their lives with it settled for less as well. Artists I know who struggle on have learned how to hang sheetrock, how to repair furniture, how to live with old cars, while non-profit arts groups suck up grant money, pass out favors, take home regular paychecks with medical and retirement. Art is upside down in central Kentucky.