This is definitely it. This is the last of it. A few cool soft breezes at night with the windows open will taunt you in your memory a week from now. Soon we’ll be closing the blinds and hissing at the sunlight like trapped vampires. It goes by many names but I like to call it “underwear weather.” More traditionally, it’s called summer. And, as every good Phoenician knows, summer begins in May.
Years ago, it used to be that once May rolled around, all of the art spaces in downtown Phoenix that didn’t have functioning A/C or swamp coolers would shut down for the summertime and stay closed until re-emerging in October. Now, considering the vast amounts of Facebook event invitations I’ve been getting, this tactic is no longer the case. Either art spaces have suddenly come across a windfall of cash or people in town are more willing to brave sweating together in a small room for the sake of seeing art.
While venues like Lawn Gnome, The Trunk Space, Frontal Lobe and Crescent Ballroom seem to have plans scheduled deep into the beast that is high summer in Phoenix, I see this time of year as having an additional advantage.
All good work needs time and focus to develop. With a self-imposed sun and heat quarantine, the summertime in Phoenix is the perfect time to think, read, write, develop, plan and scheme all of the ideas there was no time to focus on while friends were luring you out the door for beers on a patio or a hike in the mountains. The winter weather here can be blissful but is really not conducive to hours of concentration. I find myself staring longingly out the window and cursing our American workaholic existence.
When staring out the window means being blinded by a high noon reflection of the sun or witnessing a sweaty individual finding a sliver of shade to wait for the bus, the prospect of hiding indoors seems much more inviting. Living in such a unique environment, we must take advantage of the odd variances of this place.
Starting right now, you have five months to work on your grand plan. Instead of going stir crazy and disgusted with the sight of four walls, an entirely new project could be born. Most of the time, people don’t discover the benefits of focus and development. It can be ugly. Starting off is always a struggle of the conscious as it battles to defeat the beginnings of any idea. But this time, with fewer distractions, instead of saying no to the idea, you can say yes.
Philosopher Hannah Arendt wrote that philosophy is useless in the practical world without action that could take the form of writing or spoken words. Simply by stepping forth with the ideas in your head and putting them in to reality, we change the make-up of our world and begin participating in life.
So, although you might be sitting in your dark cave space, blinds closed, fan on, a/c set at 82 degrees so you don’t break the bank, and limiting contact with the “outside” world, you may ultimately be taking a greater part in it.
Once September or October approaches, emerge from your cool dark place and share your results with the city. If all works out, we should see some pretty amazing and weird work and maybe even some projects that expand on the conceptual groundwork that was created the previous year. Summer is the time to hibernate, develop and grow. Take this time to walk around in your underwear and see what’s possible.
Frontal Lobe, Go Joe show, May 24
Lawn Gnome Publishing, Sole: No Wising Up, No Settling Down Tour, June 18,
The Trunk Space, event calendar for June
Crescent Ballroom: Sea Wolf, June 17, Melvins, July 12
I have buried my sketchbook under books on polar exploration, a plant-based diet and the concept of space in the age of the internet. When I enter my studio space, I take a moment to stare frighteningly at the scattered, messy desktop buried under unopened mail and a few dirty coffee cups. I am haunted by Facebook posts of artist friend accomplishments and the reflection it has on my inactivity.
This is the frozen desert of being at an artistic standstill.
Like pressing on through a frigid, barren landscape with no clear end to the steady, repetitive horizon: the days of inactivity and unmeasurable creativity continue. For many artists, this is when we start to look at whether it might have been better to study as a Latent Print Examiner or follow a more practical career as an accountant. Maybe some have even fantasized about the seemingly simple life as a heavy machine operator or bus driver. Imagine the satisfaction of completing an honest day of work and settling in to relax in the evening.
This possibility is as remote as a constantly shifting magnetic pole and as unappealing as an unseasoned bowl of polenta. Any artist who has attempted this shift in career due to a temporary lack of inspiration soon finds out that they are floating in a virtual world of non-ideas. It is not the world they are cut out for.
Unfortunately, the artist is beset with the drive to produce and put something in to the world. Although one might be able to sit back and be distracted, distraught and disengaged, the pull to act keeps nagging like hunger. I can’t ignore forever that there are thoughts in my head and I am compelled, like an explorer was to the open sea, to find out more about it.
It is time to get out. When in the darkest moments of intellectual despair, sometimes it’s better to turn outward. Luckily, Phoenix has answered with a repertoire of activities to foster ideas, import information and maybe most importantly: generate human contact. Tuesday night Lawn Gnome hosts Books and Beakers, a weekly “bringing science to the people” event on the subject of Time Dilation Theory and more remotely local interdisciplinary artist Chris Danowski opens his show Dogface at the ASU West, Artspace West Gallery. Friday I can visit the multi-media installation by Ann Morton at Modified, Jackalope Ranch’s Manifesto exhibit at Drive-Thru Gallery and the Valley of the Sunflowers Paper Project at Combine Studios.
With so many options to turn outward, I have no reason to fall further into the crevasse of my own artistic inactivity. Instead, I can revel in the collective ability for others in the community to lift me up through their own action and energy and realize that I will get mine back in time. The desert, even in its cold state, need not be bleak.
Suggested reading: The Race to the White Continent: Voyages to the Antarctic by Alan Gurney; Below the Convergence: Voyages Toward Antarctica, 1699-1839, Alan Gurney; City of Bits: Space, Place, and the Infobahn, William J. Mitchell; Thrive Foods: 200 Plant-Based Recipes for Peak Health, Brendan Brazier