The Artist’s Statement
The inside trim on the rim of Viva’s black-framed eyeglasses is a modern shade of electric blue. This is the first thing I notice as she stands squarely in front of me, eyes sparkling from the smile that lights up her whole face. The second thing I notice is her equally blue long sleeved shirt, which is pushed halfway up each forearm and layered under a thin, bright orange short sleeved shirt. With her hair tied up in a high, loose ponytail, strands of it falling around her face and across the back of her neck, in one glance I see that she has that quintessential artist look.
Some women can really just do that layered shirt look. Clearly, she is one of them.
For the past month, I have struggled to understand our friendship. At times it is fleeting, she busy in her clay world up at the school and I all tied up in words half an hour away in my little cabin. But in other moments, we click like best friends or lovers from some distant lifetime.
Dan explained it this way:
“I lived with a woman like her once who was also in her late thirties. She had this sort of magnetic energy, very much like Viva’s, and she had done so many things in her life already. People were drawn to her and they wanted to get close to that energy.”
Redboots explained it another way:
“I think you are attracted to her because she is so full of life and so are you. Viva is you, you just don’t know it.”
And Viva, without knowing it, explained it to me this afternoon in this way:
“You know how there are some people who are searching, looking for that person and they keep missing. It’s like they’re looking for something pure, something for themselves that they need. They can recognize it in other people but they don’t see that they already have it themselves, so they’re constantly reaching.”
At this I almost begin to cry, but stop myself. We are lying on her bed staring at the laptop screen, working on an artist statement for the group show that two of her sculptures will be in next month. “I can’t get far enough away from my work,” she said, “I need your help.”
But I find it very difficult to concentrate. I am not confused about any of this anymore, just openly, utterly tender. We sit up and I move to the floor. She hands me her journal, pointing out the pages where she started her artist’s statement but couldn’t finish. I study her notes with care, then read her statement of intent for the figurative clay class she took last fall. I know instantly what to do and slipping into interview mode, I draw on the terms she uses to describe her work (“psychological narrative,” “patterns of thought,” “communications of tone”) and press her further into defining what she really means.
Within thirty minutes we have the rough draft of an artist’s statement and Viva peers down at me from the corner of her bed, eyes firm and picturesque behind her glasses (she doesn’t usually wear them). “I love it,” she says.
“Do you like it, really? It works?” I ask.
“I love it,” the artist states again, keeping her gaze locked into mine. There is a particular look of determination and depth that forms on Viva’s face when she is putting all of her energy behind something. In this moment, this is the look she gives me and it occurs to me that I will really miss her when she leaves in a few days.