These were the racing, mewling thoughts I tried to manage as I came upon the art work I had made more than twenty years ago. Evidently, the lot of it, about ten pieces in all, had been in storage in some back room of my old school, and in that time, had become the property of that institution, even as it planned to shut its doors for good. Forever. I came to the school's final sale hoping to buy a piece of OCAC (Oregon College of Art and Craft). I wasn't planning on coming across these old pieces of who I used to be.
I picked up a piece from one of the tables I used to wait on when I worked in the school's beloved Hands On Cafe. A smooth, shiny black and purple sphere with the words, "shake it baby" on it, I shook, and the thin rattle that came from within the ball reminded me of the person I was in art school, or maybe, the person I was trying to be. That me seems lifetimes old, but I can still feel her in my bones. She was bold. Maybe too bold. Maybe too mean. She said things without thinking, sometimes triggering tears, arguments, or inconvenient relationships. She tried so hard to shake her demons, so hard to rise above the rage in her veins. She never could quite do it, and she never stopped trying.
I'm still trying. I look at the work I used to make and I can see what I was hoping to become. I don't want to be her anymore, that person. So much has shifted within me, so much of what I used to suppress is now the stuff I celebrate. I love how stiff my old work is, how safe. It is easy work. Functional art that is attractive, but in the end, unsatisfying. I couldn't bring myself to buy one. I couldn't bring myself to buy the person I was trying to be.
There is a heartbreak in my old work. Even in its safety, there is a striving, a yearning to be loved, to be accepted, to be seen that feels so familiar and so desperate. I see how obvious it is now, but then I thought I was being secretive. I thought my ardent desire to be loved was well-concealed and only whispered on my long bike rides to or from school. I never considered that it was so obvious.
I wonder what I will think of the work I am making now in twenty years. Will I see my heartbreak? Will I see something that I am blind to now? Will I even be around to see it? What I will be making in twenty years? Will I still be struggling with my desperate need to both grasp at and push away love? Will I still be trying to rise above my rage, or will something happen between then and now that will save me from it?
These are the things I have come to, after being confronted with my old work and another anchor diminished.