"When do you think an artist's project is complete? How do know when that moment is?" I asked Jamie in early April.
"When it gives you goosebumps or makes you cry. Then you have to cut yourself off or you'll change it again... I always want to edit forever."
I put this goat bell near my workspace. It's a reminder of the imperfect resonance my art creates when it's ready to slip into the world. I always wished I could relate to other artists and that harmonious moment. Maybe the secret angst of artists-in-process takes away from the romance we like to project. Or maybe I am alone in this feeling.
I ring the goat bell because there is no more work to be done, what needs to be said is said, the muse has become quiet. The cover is pasted on and the zines are posted online with a brief description.
There's this sense of control I get to have when in-process. The moment can last forever, with no end. A continuum without expectation of completion. It's not a joy-filled process most of the time, but a dance of holding and letting go. I'm not kind to myself during the work, attempting to tune-in to a certain frequency and emotionally lashing myself when it doesn't sound right. But the work is something in itself and as an artist I recognize myself as more of conduit.
When the work is done, it doesn't belong to me anymore. It runs like a wobbly-legged kid across the meadow seeking a poppy head to gnaw off. I'm its keeper for a time, an overprotective parent with knowledge of a harsh world, biting my knuckles as it stumbles on its own.
The project I started working on was a series of little one-off zines made by the folded archives of my old gallery prints of The Thread #16. I had folded them almost as a means of containment, keeping them organized with the promise of doing more in the future.
At the beginning of Lent, in late-February, I unearthed the little books and dedicated them to the forty-days, dedicating each day a little zine. Each zine intended to be an exploration on a certain subject I could dig into until it was exhausted.
Because there was no intent of making copies I was excited at the prospect of not limiting myself. I could work in a deep, dimensional way, crafting little pockets of water-colored illustrations and collage bits. I could include scraps of writing in carefully constructed nooks that didn't fit into a conventional essay, or boldly and lavishly print color images and photographs without the need to make more then one copy. I could let this project be a bespoke mess outside the constructs of a black-and-white xerox containment.
These zines came together as I nested myself cross-legged in my studio, surrounded by a flurry of papers, magazines, books, old journals, modge-podge, pens, stamps, and cups that testified to the time range I spent there: coffee mugs, jars of water, and wine glasses.
There's a lot going on right now, I was grateful for the time and space to create through it.
I came off medication in January, separated from my partner, transitioned back into serving from housekeeping, and found myself living with mom and depleting my savings while a global pandemic shut everything down. During that time, a pinnacle of the art-community and a dear friend passed onto the ancestral plane.
Girl Kaycee, as she's known to her friends, was a prolific creator and lived through her work with this inspiring strength and thoughtfulness. Her ability to dedicate herself to a project and see it to fruition was a kind of alchemy to me. She truly created as she lived, there was no separation.
While working on this project I had to remind myself of her boundless encouragement to all of us in the art community. She was known to send an emoji of blowing wind juxtaposed by a blue heart. It was her thing. I had to remind myself often during this project, when shit got really frustrating, that we were creating together. I feel this way towards all my artist friends as we create in our certain spaces. There is no separation.
So for me, the goat bell rings and the work is done. Rather than slipping into the world like a slick black-&-white assembly of pages, it clunks cacophonously like an ambling goat. It has a hand-made paper cover and the pages are thick with layers of things I can't even remember now, and honestly would prevent me from putting them out there.
These are zines are done because they're letting me know they're done. Because they're ready to be in someone else's hands.