The Storming Bohemian Punks The Muse: 2021 Edition #21 – “Wow. Wouldja Look At that?”
I recently cleaned up my painting studio. It was refreshing. Even though I’ve had oodles of available time during the Year of Covid, this is a task I have fastidiously avoided. It looked overwhelming to me. How could I possibly?
I would walk into the small studio, not much bigger than a closet. I’d be planning to work or at least get organized, and the mess would paralyze me. I’d stand in front of the canvas in progress, frozen in place. The easel that holds the canvas seems off kilter, leaning against the wall, so that I am always painting at an angle.
The drop cloth on the floor had uglified over time, speckled not just with paint, but mud from outside, bits of sticky tape, crushed charcoal, a mysterious something that might have been a bit of hardware broken off the easel, or from the rickety old bureau I use as a supply cabinet. The bureau is falling apart. The drawers barely close. There is no back to it so when I put things in a drawer or on the drop shelf, everything eventually winds up on the floor between the bureau and the wall to collect dust and frustrate my efforts to find stuff. What doesn’t fall into the void clutters up all the available space. I’m always knocking over saucers of charcoal, or cups of paint-muddied water, or jars of sticky useless brushes.
On a third wall, mostly window, is the plant shelf. Some of the plants are dead, some are blooming orchids, a philodendron gone crazy covers an entire window pane, wild Rosseau. Indifferent bugs are in the soil or dying on the sill. It hurts to look at Jim’s orchids. Why did he have to go and die?
The fourth wall has the door I came through. I turn away from the painting and go back to the kitchen and the rest of my life
And that’s how it’s been, month after month of Covid isolation. I finish two or three paintings but mostly the studio is a place to avoid, like a derelict house. I don’t want to fall through the floor or step on a nail and get infected with whatever disease is poisoning the atmosphere.
But recently, things went differently. I hadn’t intended to paint. I hadn’t intended to clean. I was just going about my business when, walking through the studio, I didn’t see the sordid past or feel haunted by a ghost, or overwhelmed by the dust. I saw a mess.
The next thing I know, I’m taking everything out and stacking it in the hallway. The easel, I discover, is not broken at all, and just needed some adjustment. Moving the bureau against another wall, I cleared a bunch of space, and swept up the trash from the floor, sticky or not. I tossed out one broken drawer and repaired another. Found boxes for the paints and cleaned the glasses. Threw out the bad brushes, washed what could be saved. Watered the plants. The floor was improved with the application of soap and water and a bit of elbow grease.
“Wow,” remarked my housemate, passing through on his way to someplace else. “Wouldja look at that!?”
I cleaned the plant shelf of spilled soil and dead insects. Watered the orchids. Adjusted the trellis for the philodendron. Opened a window and then another.
Something has broken that needed to break. I wait for whatever is next to come. It is a relief.
“Wow,” I think. “Wouldja look at that?!”