When I return home from being out of town playing shows, I often want to batten down the hatches. I can’t wait to cook so I can eat something I made instead of something from a restaurant, I relish the comfort of my own bed and bedding, I want to immediately unpack my suitcase and launder my clothes, to put all of the little things I carried with me back in their proper places, like eggs in a nest. I want to close the door and not open it for a while. I want quiet. I want stillness.
I am not agoraphobic. I like the world, getting out in it, and even quite enjoy meeting new people. But there is a limit. I do extend, but always find myself pulling back, protecting, struggling to find a way to replace what has been spent. As an artist, that’s difficult. Artists spend our lives mining inner territory, making things out of what we find, and offering those things to the world. Once we let them go, there are no conditions on how we will allow them to be accepted. Once we’ve given, we can’t take back. But what comes with that giving? How much is enough? After we’ve done it, are we allowed to limit what is known about us to the art that we make? And are we allowed offer the art only and not have to then expound on it through incessant talking about it, endless cutesy social media posts, and revealing, soul-baring appearances?
I think there’s a very good reason why some artists become reclusive and defensive. When one offers everything they can muster from that mined inner territory and allows it to be consumed by anyone who wants to give it a passing glance and, let’s face it — possibly little to no respect, there is a need to keep some things safe and unknown, a need to keep some things highly personal.
Why must we always be so accessible? I’ve always, despite putting myself in a position to expect such, been a bit taken aback by an unknown person approaching me for a conversation, photograph, or to recount a story to me in a situation that isn’t in context with my job, as if I am a friend. There’s a paradox at work — I offer myself through my art and if I am successful, I make the audience feel as if they know me. If they then want to act as if they know me, I am taken aback and wonder why they think so. I’m thinking quite a lot about this as I have just completed work on a memoir of my childhood — with any hope people will read it and will then know more about my family than they probably ever wanted to know. I will, in turn, then have to deal with everyone knowing, and acting accordingly. How am I going to live with that?
I nod and smile a lot. I pose for photographs and sign things and sometimes absorb what I know probably aren’t meant to be offensive or inane comments, and then I go cover up and bolster myself to do it again in whatever way. I am so lucky to be able to make art for a living and have always considered myself so. I am thankful.
I am not supposed to tell you that sometimes I don’t feel like giving more than I decide to. I’m not supposed to tell you that sometimes I don’t want to be asked for more. It’s just one of those push and pull things. And the older I get, the more I find that I have to do a lot of giving in so I don’t give out.