Sharing Space with an Alien
Updated: Mar 25
With the exception of a few days here and there, in my art career I have always worked alone. I feel like this has been by design, as art is a fairly solitary endeavor. For most of my career I have been counseled by one person or another to “Get some help”. I hear this especially often right after I tell a joke at a party. “You need help”, they say. “Many, many years of help.” I know I need help. My hands are getting very messed up, and along with them, so is my work ethic. It is harder to go to work when you know you will barley be able to scratch your ear when the day is done.
I like the fun parts of my work just fine. Getting the check in the mail is great! Carving polyethylene foam is great! Smearing wax all over things is great! Cutting my drawings up and rearranging the image is fun! Even pouring bronze is fun. And especially fun, is showing Tori what I’ve made.
“Looky here”, says I.
“You are so talented!”, says she. “You should be a sculptor!”
And so I have been. But running a pneumatic chipping hammer, and sandblasting, and grinding bronze, and sanding bronze, and cleaning my messes up after any of these tasks is getting hard to do. I should really have a desk job, like writing about how hard I have it.
How to turn that into actual checks in the mail is the only sticking point. A small matter, I suppose. And my hands are perfectly fine for typing! Especially when I am bitching about work! I can type like a regular demon when I have a beef to air! A veritable whirlwind of clicking and tapping! You should have seen me writing to the mailman when he delivered my TheWeek magazine to somebody else! He didn’t see it because Tori said it was inappropriate, but he surely must have felt it. The next week’s copy showed up on time, and in the right mailbox! And my hands didn’t hurt a bit, even after typing some of the most vicious and sternly worded sentences I’ve ever written!
I think I should have sent it as a preemptive measure against his misrouting my magazine again, but Tori said that “kicking someone in the groin so hard that his testicles appear as a goiter in his neck” crosses the line. Some line. (But it's just scribbles on paper. The power of the pen. I wouldn't actually kick him. He could hurt me!) And isn’t that sort of my point? He crossed the line! Anyway, if I can just get my bitching and ranting designated as work, so that I can receive a check in the mail, I will have a desk job, and the mailman will, by God, watch his step!
But in the meantime, what is happening is that I am taking on an intern. I’ve never shared my shop space for any extended period of time with anything bigger than a kitten, and that lasted about a week! (ShopCat had to go! And boy was I glad I’d rerouted her when I heard that she had kittens of her own about four weeks later! Kittens having kittens! What is this world coming to? She was the smallest adult cat ever created!) But back to the bullet point here, I am going to have a young man from France working in my shop for 672 hours. That is a lot longer than I like to work. Even eight hours is getting kind of difficult, but maybe I’ll get something done. Or he will.
It seems that my intern found some images of my work online, and felt like I could be a source of information, or inspiration, or both. Boy is he in for it! I have information! Of course, I’ll still do all the heavy lifting, like pointing out empty beer cans or dusty spots in my shop, and identifying things that need to be sandblasted and ground on. I hope he likes to sand and grind. I love telling people how to sand and grind! I hope he likes running a chipping hammer! Nobody can learn to run a chipping hammer in less than thirty seconds, and I will have days worth of that for him to hone his skills.
I think that the main thing Leo will learn is that he should have gotten a desk job, like writing disciplinary missives to mail carriers. It doesn’t hurt your hands, and feels pretty good when you get the job done right. I have no idea how that turns into a check in the mail, but Leo is young. He has time to figure things out. I expect his learning curve in my shop is going to look like a space launch! Straight the hell up, for forty seconds, and then settling into a plateau of understanding, wondering how he can get back to where he started, without crashing and burning in the process.
But there are people who want to be sculptors. I was one of them. Making a glob of nondescript matter into something interesting and inspiring is about as rewarding as it gets. I hope Leo finds the kind of satisfaction I have found in making things. I hope he learns something of lasting value from his experience here. I hope he feels like his time was well spent, and I truly hope he learns that sometimes a project can be too much work for one person to do. Many of our most beloved artworks are the product of co-operation. I have been too reluctant to involve others in my pursuits. I may yet escape my self-imposed confinement, and make a few pieces of a grander scale. I contemplate this more and more, as heavy physical labor becomes more of a challenge . Our hands don’t last forever. Especially when we use them as hard as I have. We need more hands sometimes. Or we need to learn how to make a living bitching out the mailman on a keyboard. These are our choices.
I look forward to working with a student. I hope he can learn from my mistakes as he learns from his own. If he is like me, and wants to keep it all under his own roof, that is fine too. But if he wants to still be doing this when he is my age, he might need to learn to work with others at least some of the time. Besides, even if bitching out the mailman can somehow be turned into a paycheck, what then? Pretty soon, after bearing down on all of one’s main grievances, the only person left that needs bitching out is yourself, and I don’t see that paying off anytime soon.
Leo is a bright young man, to be sure. He has his own style, his own ideas, his own vision of what is possible. He is here to develop some of those ideas, and hopefully some techniques that I’ve learned over the years, and I think he is here to add to what is already a broad world experience, compared to my own youth. Maybe he will use some of what he learns in this stay here in Halfway as he decides his future, but one thing is certain; his eyes are wide open, and he is looking for the things in life that we artists make art about. He is a maker, that is clear. And we welcome him to our humble shop and the use of my humble pile of dusty tools, and my dusty brain, for whatever its contents may be worth. I look forward to seeing what he makes! And I guess, I look forward to seeing what I make with someone else crashing around in my shop with me!