Surviving the Pandemic as an Artist

Self Portraits 2020 by Tony Sobota

2020 started off so promising.  Our son had a meltdown-free 1st birthday party, the Titans kept Tom Brady and the Patriots from another Super Bowl, and by March I was having my best year of art sales on record.  A little over two months later, 2020 has been canceled.  Our son now eats adult amounts of food, Tom Brady broke up with Bill Belichick, and like many full-time artists COVID-19 just deleted half my income.  So far.  

While surviving as an artist under normal circumstances invites challenges, the pandemic has multiplied them.  I rely on art, music, and street festivals for a majority of my annual income, so every cancelation brings greater urgency to change my business model.  However, I also need to keep the lights on in the meantime.  I’ve had several commissions come in to help me break even, thankfully,   but since these projects require the bulk of my time I’m currently in a sort of catch-22.  I’m struggling to pivot my business while simultaneously paying the bills—not to mention keeping my “inner artist” from burning out.

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Mother Charity

Photo by John Palmer Gregg

Charity, great love,
is the love of my mother.
Agape. Selfless.

ἀγάπη
Worlds forever change.
Situations are as tides.
My mother is constant.

ἔρως
Eros, romantic,
is a love of many lusts.
Temporal pleasures. Venus.

στοργή
Storge, natural,
widely diffused, emotive,
finds dependency.

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Bird’s Egg

It’s spring and that means periodically coming across empty bird shell fragments as we walk our property looking at the world coming back to life after its winter sleep.  I get excited every time I see one. The thought of the new life fills me with joy and I get a slight thrill. I also hardly ever come across one of these shells when a hazy memory of long ago doesn’t overtake me. 

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Free Indeed

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

Galatians 5:1

A couple of weeks ago I watched a video that was circulating in some of the circles I used to live in, and while I watched the video I felt fear and anxiety come flooding into and over me. Waves of panic broke at my throat. What if I’ve been wrong? What if the whole world is going to hell in a hand basket? What if there is separation? What if we really do have to do or believe something to bridge that expanse? What if I’ve been breathing too easy? What if I I’ve been too free?

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Wash Day Mondays

“Have regular hours for work and play; make each day both useful and pleasant, and prove that you understand the worth of time by implying it well. Then youth will be delightful, old age will bring few regrets, and life will become a beautiful success.”  

Louisa May Alcott

“laundry” by melanerpist is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

I was raised on old fashioned domestic rhythms like a nursery rhyme: Mondays are for washing, Tuesdays for ironing, Wednesdays for sewing, Thursdays for market, Fridays for baking, Saturdays for cleaning, and Sundays for rest. (Although my grandmother’s idea of rest was preparing Sunday dinner, including biscuits, for the entire family.) My mother was so ordered that I’ll bet we deviated from those old-time rhythms by only minutes. “Let’s take care of today,” she would say. “We will take care of tomorrow on tomorrow.” This, said by a woman who made her own biscuits every single day. 

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Gethsemane: A Poem

Loving a broken person has caused me pain. I lament for what could have been; for them and for me. But love forgives again and again, since ‘love covers over a multitude of sins’. And the source of my love is not myself. Love is not that I have loved God, but that he loved me and sent his son, the true vine, to lay down his life for me.

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.

Abide in my love.

John 15:9

Gethsemane

Only after the precious jewel was taken hold of,
thrown to the ground,
shattered and skittered,
was it gifted to me,
and where I would have polished
and velvet-encased, until death’s release
I gathered shards, cutting skin.

Blood dripped and cried out,
witness to another’s
loveless hands,
and my task seemed impossible
but for you,
my willing Lord.

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Dr. King Had A Dream

My wife and I communicate quite differently. Last night she spoke to a group of girls. She distributed paper hearts and instructed them to write things they love on their heart. Then she told them, “The less temporal the love you listed, the more time you should devote to it. The more temporal the item, the less time.” She pushed them towards cultivating legacies that will outlive them, relationships that will benefit beyond their presence. Her advice was beautiful. Her delivery kind and full of life. Lyrical even. I attempt to convey similar sentiments to my students, but I do so by reminding them, as often as possible, they will die soon. “You will all be dead before you know it. You’re wasting away now. What are you doing today that is any different than yesterday?” Some students giggle at my goth-like pedagogical gloom. Others roll their eyes and pray / hope / curse me to fulfill my own destination sooner than later. My wife inspires. She caffeinates. She’s an Enneagram 7—the Enthusiast—with a need for pleasure and to avoid pain. I suck air out of rooms like a Hope Hoover. I’m an Enneagram 4—the Individualist—with a need for melodrama and a penchant for hyperbole. My wife: “Live forever with rightly chosen loves.” Me: “You’re expiring, even now, so don’t be stupid.” My wife’s name is Latonya, and people actually call her “La La”, as in a musical notation. My name is Kevin, and for a long time people called me “Hamster”, as in a rodent. She does not have any tattoos because she prefers to keep her options open. I tattooed a hamster on my leg in 2011 because I’m deflating anyway so why not paint the bag. She likes to dance and eat spicy Indian food and drive with all the dashboard lights flashing warnings because it will all be okay. I enjoy my couch and black coffee and walking pugs by creeks that smell of turtles because they’re heroic in their isolation. 

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