Daily Archives: July 22, 2020

Timeout for Art: Abstract



Here I am, just one day after posting a conversational blog (that should have been published on Sunday), with another. And this, my “Timeout for Art” blog, which I planned to post every Wednesday, has been pretty hit-and-miss over the last few weeks.

Here’s the thing. After weeks of Corona-virus induced stay-at-home time, I find myself back out in the work force. And it’s exhausting!! Not that any of it is too hard or so demanding, but just that I’m not used to it.

I work one or two days a week at our Island Treasures Resale Shop. It’s a worthy cause, providing support for our island Fire Department and EMS. All merchandise is donated; all staff is volunteer. Everyone that I work with is helpful and kind. No job is difficult, and there are many hands available when assistance is needed. The shifts are only four hours long.

I work two days a week at the Beaver Island Golf Course. My duties are few: I sanitize carts and equipment between customers, and accept fees for golfing and cart rental. I drive a golf cart around the course to check for any problems. If the weather is good, and the office isn’t busy, I can cross the road and work in the garden. Pleasant activities for lovely people.

Compared to my work at the hardware, where I would regularly:

  • run five miles or more on freight days, just in repeated trips from the back to the front of the building, often with heavy loads
  • carry 50 pound bags of bird seed, potting soil or water softener salt out to the customer’s cars
  • haul 12′ ladders through the store to retrieve products or set up displays
  • make dozens of trips each day up and down the basement stairs to stock products on shelves

This, in addition to helping customers find what they need, managing telephone calls, cash register and veterinary appointments, cleaning, mixing paint, cutting and threading pipe, cutting keys…the list goes on. That was a hard job. That was a job that warranted the exhaustion I felt at the end of a day.

That’s why I am baffled at the way these relatively simple jobs wear me out. Other than that I may have gotten too accustomed to the lackadaisical, easy-going lifestyle of the unemployed, I don’t understand it. But, that’s the way it is.

I was so tired Sunday evening, after four days of having to (dread!) leave my house, I couldn’t possibly write. Monday, I felt it was necessary to just sit around, one dog or another on my lap, to recuperate. Yesterday, I finally managed to write and post a blog, mainly as a means of procrastinating on another obligation (which tendency, I swear, deserves a blog all to itself!).

Today, with that “other obligation” still looming, I decided (surprise, surprise!) that it was of ultimate importance to get my Wednesday post out on time. So, here I am. I’ve been struggling with finding enough to say about art, so I’m going to work my way through the alphabet, starting today, with Abstract for the letter A.

I was thinking I’d have some trouble when I got to those hard letters at the end of the alphabet. As it turns out, the trouble is already here. I was planning to write about my reasons for working mainly in the abstract. It’s something I’ve talked and written about before, and a topic I’ve thought quite a bit about. Simple.

Then, I came across a wonderful essay by an artist I admire, that tossed all my rote thinking out the door. Brian Rutenberg, a prolific New York artist, has a series called “Studio Visits” that I’ve been watching on YouTube. I’m also reading his latest book, Clear Seeing Place. He says, “abstraction is a process, not a style.”

Aren’t even the most realistic paintings abstract, in that they are two-dimensional renderings of three-dimensional objects? Rutenberg makes me believe it with his description of Van Gogh’s ropey brushstrokes. So often, the brushwork or pencil lines are an integral part of art work, though they have nothing to do with the object or scene being depicted, and everything to do with the act of recreating it. According to Brian Rutenberg, “saying you’re painting abstracts is like saying you’re eating cooking: it doesn’t mean anything.”

He’s given me a lot to think about, and rendered my planned essay unusable. So, there.