In front of the PNCA Design Arts Dept. (sw10th and Salmon)
on the day I packed up my studio just before the school moved. 1998?
In 1995 we moved to Portland so I could go to Art School in Beervana. I had done a semester at the Academy of Art in SF, but el Hueso wasn't hip to living in the Bay Area, so we loaded up the truck and moved to the great green NW -where the beer practically falls out of the sky!
My time at the Pacific Northwest College of Art seems so surreal to me now, especially since the school I went to isn't there anymore. I learned how to paint in the Portland Art Museum, took printmaking, photography and anatomy in the wing that now houses a collection of Native American art. It sure felt like a big deal then, but feels quaint in comparison to the internationally renowned entity that PNCA has become. When the school moved to the Pearl district, it underwent a transformation that I feel little connection to. The only part that remains of the school I knew is the sculpture studio -that I had to cross town to get to. It was out in the middle of NOwhere, in the scuzzy warehouse district that now poses as 'The Pearl'. I didn't mind the walk; a 15 minute adventure thru the gritty underbelly of Vaseline Alley, beneath the bustling bottling bridge between the Weinhards Brewery bldgs into the dusty unpaved streets of the industrial North side. It was there that I got to play with plaster and wood and metal and got turned on to the concept of assemblage. There between Bridgeport Brewing and Henry Weinhards where something was always fermenting and the air was thick with malted barley.
I went back there last night . . . but as an alien from another planet!
In my twisted, round-about attempts to find myself and/or a JOB, this past year I started volunteering for stuff. In addition to my efforts at my son's school, I signed up to be a parent advocate for the Right Brain Initiative. When it became clear that that wasn't going to get me anywhere, I signed up to volunteer at the Museum of Contemporary Craft -hoping that it might lead to some form of gainful employment, but so far, all it's gotten me is a tote bag and a free (unused) drink ticket. Interestingly enough, in 2009, PNCA and the MoCC joined forces, so now by volunteering for the Museum, I am inadvertently donating my free labor to the school I graduated from (and paid big bucks to!) shouldn't I be doing better by now?! Don't they owe Me something? I'm trying to make sense of it all but it feels like a big joke somehow. Here I am struggling to make something of myself, and yet I'm still not getting anywhere, in fact, I'm going backwards.
So Last night was the Big PNCA Donors Gala: a party for some of the richest people in P-Town (the swankiest affair I've ever been to!). I signed up to work the Silent Auction. The volunteers reported to the sculpture studio -the only part of the school that is virtually unchanged since I attended. I didn't recognize anyone I knew from the school, I felt completely disconnected. It's all so different now! They closed off the block to set up tented pavilions for the formal dinner and after party. There was even an elaborate stage with sexy(?) half-dressed go-go-boyz pole dancing to funky disco remixes. What was I doing here?!! Where did I fit in to all this? It was all messing with my head in a bad dream sort of way, like getting sucked into a time-based installation which leaves you hanging in suspension between the familiarity of the past and the bizarre foreign reality of the present. I'm still sorting it out.
Bear with me, but here's how I see it: The Rich donate to the school to make it better for the scrappy (starving) artist to go to learn how to make better art to sell to the rich who make the rich (gallery owners) even richer while the artist (still starving!) ends up donating their time because they can't get a real job. Or even sadder. . . the artist is so busy working to pay off their student loans and support their families that they lack the energy or inspiration to make art at all anymore. The system is designed to keep the artist poor, unhappy, and starving! -Makes for better art, eh? I don't mean to be so sensitive, but that whole experience last night left me feeling very small and very poor and a bit disenfranchised. Fuck the system!
I think it's very meaningful to volunteer, it's just that I could really use a paycheck Dammit! I'm just not sure how I should be directing my volunteer efforts or who I am doing it for anyway. . . or why.