I just watched Capitalism: A Love Story and The Corporation. After these proclamations of intention, these tenets of corporate strategy, I am compelled to compose my own manifesto of sorts…
In light of my personal situation, I am reminded of the difficult choices that this current brand of capitalism forces me to make. This conundrum is not mine alone, but a quagmire faced by the vast majority of Americans. Although I am not fully unemployed, my guaranteed (pre-tax) monthly salary is only 600 dollars a month, and that source of income is scheduled for termination on January 21, 2010. I have been job hunting since November of 2008 and as you can imagine I am combating hopelessness and struggling to maintain a sense of dignity and positivity. Fortunately, I am a believer in the ultimate justice of the universe and feel strangely optimistic about my chances of survival, in one of the most challenging economies in the world, New York City. On a number of occasions, just when I thought I would find myself utterly homeless and hungry, glittering circumstances present themselves, offering yet another stay of execution. I suppose, “God looks after fools, drunks, and little children.”
Neither a drunk or a child, I am a fool for creative expression, and after years of avoidance and denial, I have finally come to terms with my calling as an Artist. Nothing gives me more pleasure, or a more secure sense of purpose, than when the seed of an idea germinates into a physical, tangible something. I continue to suffer the well-intentioned/timid/prodding encouragement of my friends, which balances the general tsk-tsk-ing bewilderment of my family and buoys my evolving self-confidence.
One of the most interesting developments of my artistic career is that of my unexpected inclusion in the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Residency program. I am surrounded by a host of talented individuals with layered bodies of work, impressive academic pedigrees and consistent sources of income J. Me? I am self-taught, with a previous professional life in the (dying) American fashion industry. Now, my daily commute includes a stroll down Wall Street, and the view from my (free) studio falls on Lady Liberty. I am still impressed by the apparent wealth of the financial executives and the luxury apartments that have claimed some of the surrounding buildings.
One part of me seriously despises these trappings, especially since they seem so far out of reach. While another side of me, the side that shyly explores the twinkle of Tiffany & Co. (from the inside!) wants a piece of that glamorous life. But only for a moment. Ultimately, I want to continue to do what I love and utilize my expertise. I want not to be homeless, I want to marry a caring man and not weep at the ugly proportions of incarceration and how privatization deepens the racialized view of criminality and strips my community of its potential. I don’t have to be mega-rich, but some security and comfortability would be awfully nice…
In the midst of all of this I am acutely aware that many of these same corporate forces fund my ability to create. Our residency studios are housed in a vacant office building- JP Morgan, Emblem Health, and Guardian Life are but a few of our close neighbors- and we each have imagined or connected with the moneyed collectors that will pay handsomely for our grand projects. By the same token, as critical thought is a hallmark of studio practice, we feel the hypocrisy of our situation on a regular basis.
I suppose that I am trying to explore these tensions in my work. That you can be repulsed and attracted simultaneously, and how you can justify whatever feeling is dominant, at any given moment, is a fascinating aspect of human nature. And so, I will justify the embrace of a positive outlook, despite the contradictory tension of these challenging circumstances. I will use my creative process as a conduit to inspire internal and community dialogue. I will not give up.