I grew up in the wilderness on the top of a mountain. The child of artists, I have been carving stone since I was 3-years old. However, no artist wants their children to be artists, and mine were no different. It is a hard life. Being a self-directed artist means waking up every day and creating something from nothing. It means generating your own energy, your own momentum, taking full ownership and responsibility for your path. It is as close to living in the wild as our modern industrial society offers us. Artists are modern hunter-gatherers. It is a difficult as it is fulfilling.
It never occurred to me that I would be an artist. I did not see within myself artistic aptitude, not did I have the compulsion create. After growing up in my parents studio, inadvertently absorbing technique and aesthetic through simple osmosis, I took a 27-year break from this work. I dabbled in compulsory-education, employment, and academia, always searching for an impossibly evasive sense of deep competency.
Through my teens and 20’s, I was a political and environmental activist. I worked on men’s violence, human rights, and the multiplicities of intersecting injustices and violences that we live under in our daily lives. I worked for grassroots organizations, went to protests, and considered myself a committed activist. I could imagine no other identity for myself.
However, I became deeply troubled by the Nonprofit Industrial Complex and the mechanisms of social change available within our system. I went to graduate school only to become further lost, indebted, unhealthy, and deeply depressed. After finishing my master’s I took my first jump. Instead of applying for non-profit jobs, I opened a small pop-up restaurant with a friend, and rediscovered my love and the deep sense of fulfillment I get from working with my hands.
In his early thirties, my father saw no clear path ahead of him. His own father had had a wood bowl turning business in New Hampshire, and my father knew how to make bowls, so that is what he started doing. He met my mother, who had also left her graduate school path in Boston to be a wood carver and food maker in California, and they walked the artists path together.
I was 30 and had just closed my restaurant. I found myself working in a non-profit job that however noble, I hated. Like my father, I saw no clear path ahead of me. One day my mom called me to tell me that pop had cancer and the doctors were giving him 9-months to live. I talked it over with my partner, quit my job in Boston, and flew to Arizona to spend the next 9 months at home. Three days later my partner called me to tell me that she was pregnant.
Nine months later was the most excruciatingly painful and beautiful and life changing moon-cycle of my life. We had a 4-day-long homebirth in Boston, followed 7 days later by a 4-day-long home-death in Arizona with our newborn son. After my father died, my partner and I stayed with my mom over the winter, living in my childhood home for the first time since I left for college.
There, in the calm quietude of mountains and coyotes, I contemplated my path. I had no idea what to do next. No clear path ahead was evident. I had closed my business. I had a new child and needed to make a living, yet couldn’t bring myself to find a job in my field. In my previous adventures I had never felt like I knew what I was doing. I had never had a boss or mentor who was able to tell me how to do my job well. I lived daily with a feeling of barely treading water, making things up as I went.
For the first time since childhood, I started carving stone in my parents studio. It is there that I found that elusive sense of competency I had been searching for. I KNEW HOW TO BE AN ARTIST.
That was 5-years and 500 pieces ago. All but a handful of my works have found homes, and my energy and momentum as a maker and creator grows daily. As a child, I did not recognize that I was growing up immersed in an aesthetic lineage grounded in a deep honoring of the earth or a political lineage that honored self-direction and the divinity within each of us.
This work, manipulating elemental materials, has allowed me deep healing. It has guided me in owning my own power, my own divinity. It has also allowed me a posthumous conversation with my father which I never had during his life, and a deepening of my relationship with my mother, who continues her own path as a professional artist. It has been an owning of my inheritance and lineage. I am deeply grateful for the work, the growth, the community of patrons and fellow artists I have built. I have found my people, my place, my center, my inner child.