The Pendulum Swings

At times all I do is spend time painting and working in my studio and resent ANY intrusion that pulls me away and at times I suffer guilt because I’m so lazy or distracted that I can’t get in there.

In the car and on walks these days I’m listening to Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, which is about a Chinese American mother raising her girls to be musical prodigies in the US.  It’s very good, read by the author, and she conveys a nice mix of believing in the way she approaches parenthood and being aware of its’ insanity and pitfalls.  That book makes me want to drill and force my daughter to do better (she is an A student who sometimes gets B’s) and to have that kind of diligence as a painter myself.  Last night I watched A State of Mind – a British documentary about two girls preparing to take part in the Mass Games (watch this link, the picture in the background isn’t a huge jumbo tron, it’s thousands of people holding colored squares all changing in unison to create a huge moving image), a North Korean spectacle like nothing else on earth.  It’s about extreme hard work and sacrifice in order to make art.  You can almost forget that the government must have put as much effort into putting on a show for the filmmakers as it does in putting on the Mass Games, because the story about how hard these girls are working is so engrossing, their effort and sweetness is real, and yet while the story is moving you, we all know there is a horrifying side to North Korea.  The girls innocent and creepy worship of the Great Leader (or whatever they call him) is so strange and foreign and familiar that it serves as a mirror where we could see our own nation’s patriotic fervor.  But anyway, both of these stories are making  me commit to being more disciplined and yet what to I do next?  I wake up at ten am and lay in bed reading David Foster Wallace’s A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again.  Just now I was reading his essay on E Unibus Pluram television and U.S. fiction where he seems to be saying people should pay more attention to the 6 hours of television we watch a day, and the mood it’s creating within me is to just enjoy the ridiculous indulgence of being in my PJ’s at noon.

Perhaps I’m drawn to watching and reading things like these because as of Jan 1 I am going to draw and paint and teach full time.  I’m a little scared!  I’m scared it won’t work and I’m scared I won’t work hard enough!  I feel so undisciplined lately, but I’m hoping that’s because it’s the end of two weeks that have a lot of time off involved.

I’m sure as Don Draper says, “Everything is going to be fine.”

3 thoughts on “The Pendulum Swings

  1. Sarah- Thanks for your latest blog and the variety of issues you touch on. Every culture has its standard for what healthy self-discipline means and what is accepted as worth spending one’s life on. The North Korean spectacle is impressive in a certain way, like watching an army of soldiers execute maneuvers. Despite the colorful cards and dancers let’s not forget that the spectacle is propaganda for a totalitarian state. We Americans get our own form of propaganda watching those 6 hours of television each day……
    End of December. It’s winter; it’s cold and dark out there. It’s OK to enjoy a little sleeping late and staying in bed to read. Jeez, you’re not reading comic books and People magazine, but David Foster Wallace, for goodness sake!!!! Not exactly junk reading. And by the way, you didn’t mention that you also created a blog for this last day of the year!! Also, it’ll be interesting to read the autobiographies of those two musical prodigies in twenty years and find out how it was to be the daughters of Tiger Mom. I think you and your artwork are terrific.

    1. You’re totally right, the Mass Games are propaganda, but I think it’s still art. The Sistine Chapel ceiling is propaganda, and in many ways Michelangelo was apparently coerced into making it too. I don’t support the message of either piece, but they are both beautiful feats that humans poured their hearts into. To me the human spirit shines through despite the oppressive regime’s hand in things. As a matter of principle though, I hope I’d refuse to take part in any art that deifies any human, Great Leader, Pope, Pharaoh etc.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s