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The Rubik’s Cube of Artist V. Income

I’d rather make art I can put my soul into and care about, live in an apartment that feels like home, and bake my eggless cookies

Ever notice how the Christmas presents you’ve given become a record of how well you were doing every year? For example, my friend Andrea bought her father a Puma jump suit one year, and a tie the next.  It was a good tie. When I worked corporate America there were spa packages and Swarovski earrings. When I worked retail, everyone sported JCrew.


This year, I gave a lot of DVD’s. I started to panic about my work situation on the plane. Planes are breeding grounds for panic: a cramped space with strangers, dehydrated and confined to a seat. I was on my connecting flight from Pittsburgh to LA via Orlando. Robbed of my timepiece, since all electronic devices must be turned off, the hours yawned endlessly. Video equipment broken, there would be no in-flight movie. The dry air sucked the moisture out of my contact lenses, and of course, the freedom of liquids being taken from us, I had no saline solution.  And the woman in the aisle seat had a nasty cold. Not quite hell, but far worse than purgatory.


With the company of my iPod Shuffle, and one sacrificial contact lens on the floor, I was left with my thoughts. Thoughts about a possible second job. I ran through a list of potential solutions: Barista, server, bartender, stripper, temp, caterer, booking a national commercial. Some of these are more viable than others. Some more rational than others.


If I could run a want ad for the job I, well, want, it would look something like this: Intelligent, friendly girl seeking part-time position, 2 to 3 days a week. Available no earlier than 8 am and no later than 3pm Mondays and Tuesdays, any time Wednesdays through Fridays and after 4pm Saturdays and Sundays. Must be flexible and pay equivalent of at least $13/hour. 


Consider the smack-you-in-the-face difference between the people back home and the people around which I’ve made my new home. The bodies of people there are shaped to be functional, not cultural. And I started to think of the evolution of our bodies regarding location. I come from North East Ohio, where the steel industry was big. When the steel mills shut down, the cities lost their worth and the people lost their jobs. If it weren't for Packard and GM, people around here wouldn't have a way to make a living. Now those places are in trouble. The future of the Mahoning Valley looks grim. People out here are factory workers. Car plants. That's what they all do. They make car parts. The upper middle class are teachers. A vast many are farmers. But the majority are factory workers. If you don't work in a factory, you cut hair or work in the mall. If you work in the mall, you probably also wait tables. Most likely at Red Lobster.


People are stocky and broad. Seeing the girls with the hair scrunchies taming their permed and Aqua-Netted locks, the boys all in ball caps with crew cuts. The middle age are a unisex mass sporting mullets and sweatshirts. They get out of school and get a job, then get married and have kids young. Then don't know what to do. Depressed. Worn out. Burnt out. Tired. 


Every jukebox has at least three Nickelback CD’s, beer is $1.50, wine is red, comes out of a cooler, is served in a plastic cup, and is slightly…fizzy.


I am a rock star. I don’t even need to have a job, I live in LA. I’ve been to the Paramount lot, have headshots, been on TV, nabbed an agent, Nicole Kidman was in my yoga class.


The reality is so much less glamorous, but they don’t know that, they don’t need to know that. It’s nice to give the impression of accomplishment because it reminds me of what I’m working towards. Reminds of who I have the potential to be. And, you know, as long as the gloss is mesmerizing them, well then, for a few hours I am already living The Dream. And that feels nice.


The reality is that I make $9/hour at my part time job, got the agent through a friend, have been an extra, and before Nicole Kidman my biggest celebrity sighting was Carrot Top.


Back here in LA, I blend right into the scenery. In stark comparison to the working folk back home, the bodies out here are lithe, their clothes are hip vintage, everyone has a flattering cut and color, and the men as well as the women get manicures.


They are actors who sit at the Bourgeois Pig and sip non fat lattes while they collect residual checks from acting gigs. Even the news anchors in California look like actors with highlighted hair and sexy suits. Yoga instructors carry a certain level of celebrity with their own cult followings.


I haven’t worked a monotonous job under bad neon light, on my feet all day. The most monotonous job I’ve had out here has been as a paid audience member.


Sure, every commercial represents not something I need to buy, but rather, a job I didn’t get. And I know, cry me a river.


I found this job for an administrative assistant at an art gallery. It’s kind of the perfect job for me:


Company Description:

We are a prestigious art gallery that specializes in fine European paintings, drawings and prints from the 17th century to the present. Located in the heart of Beverly Hills, the gallery exhibits works by Rembrandt van Rijn, Marc Chagall, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, Pablo Picasso, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Henri Matisse, and artist of the French Barbizon School.

Job Qualifications:

0-2 years experience in general administrative work. Applicants should be dedicated team players, possess excellent organizational skills and attention to detail and have the ability to multi task. Proficiency in word, excel, outlook, and the internet required. Knowledge of Gallery Pro and ACT database systems a plus. Bilingual in French and/or Spanish helpful. Also any art background or interest not necessary but definitely a plus.
Job Description:

Reception of clients and phone calls. Preparation of presentations, invoicing, mailings, and show coordination. Art history background, office management skills and bookkeeping experience helpful. Graphic Design/Photography experience a plus.
Work Schedule:  Starting date January 1, 2007
Full Time Position:  Monday thru Saturday 10am - 7pm Sunday 12pm - 6pm


I mean, I know Rembrandt, I love Chagall--his gorgeous blue window in the Art Institute if Chicago is one of my favorites--Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso, Renoir, Matisse (his Jazz series and Icarus)…All of this…I know this. I studied this. I studied a lot of art history in school. This is my favorite period. This is what I know best, and for which I have a secret passion.

The things we sacrifice for this career.


How could I do it? When would I have time to audition? Do you think a place like this would let me rearrange my schedule? Hardly.


“I don’t know how you do it,” my friend Jay said recently. “I’d be in a state of constant panic.” 


I kind of am.


But Jay manages a team of investment bankers and has his picture hanging on the wall of a bank. I can’t fathom that. Nor am I cut out for that. For some reason it seems like a better option for me to pay rent on faith and rearrange my life at the sound of my cell phone for auditions.


And I mean this. I mean this literally and truly.


Or do I? For a long time “stability” was a dirty word. Changing mind figuring out


While at Video Hut tonight, because Troy is in Denver, snowed in, and has our Netflix with him, I came across a movie on the new release shelf, picked it up and found a friend’s name on the box. And good for her. Good for her that this is her job. It’s what she’s done for over twenty years, it’s what she wants to do. A stewardess on my flight from Pittsburgh to Orlando looked a lot like the character she played in “Airplane.” I won’t watch it, this new release--I hate slasher movies. And I don’t want to do them.

Maybe I’m a cookie cut from another batch of batter, but I don’t want to live in a dark windowless basement in Astoria, just so I can get a beer commercial. Or go on tour every four months and ruin my marriage.


I’d rather make art I can put my soul into and care about, live in an apartment that feels like home, and bake my eggless cookies.


And I think I’m on to something, here. I think I’m discovering exactly what I’m supposed to do. It will not look like everyone else’s idea, and will operate without a set of directions, but it’ll be what’s right for me.


One of my professors at Kent used to say, “Make your own work.” That is my mantra for the new year.


In a yoga class recently (not the one Nicole was in) the teacher led us through a series of poses that opened our heart, opened our breathing, opened our bodies. “You’re creating space,” she said. “What are you making room for?”


So a bright new year to all of us, and all the things for which we’re making room.

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