A disastrous year for creatives and creativity is one we should leave behind
This is the time of year when everyone inevitably starts looking back at what has happened the past twelve months, partly to remember the good pieces, to memorialize losses, and to try and make some sense of the rest. If this were a normal year, I would be working on getting art submissions ready, updating the website, and deciding what direction I wanted to take for the next twelve months. December has always been busy trying to wrap things up while still allowing sufficient time for family and festivities.
Not this year. I don’t need to tell you what a clusterfuck this year has been. You’ve been experiencing it right along with the rest of us. All our plans went to shit. Drastic measures, some now regrettable, had to be taken. People and opportunities were lost and neither is coming back. Back in March, we were talking about, “when things return to normal,” but we now realize that isn’t going to happen. Even as a vaccine begins to roll out across the United States in the morning, even as the Electoral College meets tomorrow and (presumably) ends our four-year political nightmare, there’s no returning to the lives we once knew. “Normal” has been blown to smithereens and it remains to be seen what replaces it.
Our model for this week’s photos was also the subject of some of our first posts this year. In fact, if there were an award for the most-frequently appearing model this year, she would get it. She occurs so often partly because she shot with us late last year before everything went haywire, and then was the first person to jump back in front of the camera in September when we thought everything was going to be safe. Silly me. I saved this set of pictures for now because even though there were still five months left to the year when we shot them I knew they would be an apt end-of-the-year metaphor.
There is so much of this year I would love to see scrubbed from my mind, and with my brain working the way it is, that quite likely will eventually happen involuntarily. I don’t think I know a creative who at least once this year hasn’t questioned whether they should continue. Many have contemplated ending their lives completely. Some have succeeded. Others had their lives taken from them by a virus that could have, should have, been controlled if only we had leadership that wasn’t more concerned with their own profit and benefit.
Art shows, and subsequently art sales, were shut down after February. Those that did try to come back were less than successful. Buyers and collectors weren’t in the mood to invest, or even go out and look. This leaves creatives struggling for public grants and for those of us who work along the margins of what is publicly acceptable, applying for those rapidly-depleted funds was futile.
What may hurt most is that for all the hardships and difficulties we’ve faced here, I don’t have to look far to find those who have it worse. Friends and colleagues who were just fine a year ago now struggle daily to keep a roof over their heads, food on their table, and medicine available. Not only has a nation turned their backs on them, but many of those they trusted have also abandoned them, some to address their own concerns, others because of political differences, and still others who just couldn’t be bothered.
These images are stark. There’s no noise reduction because that would require softening edges that need to be sharp. There’s no skin treatment because we need to see things for what they are. These images are dark because light has been rare this year. Some images have visible ripple shadows from the light fixture in the shower. Sure, I could have taken those out, but again, it’s a metaphor for how things external to us, well out of our control, distorted our year, our lives, our personal photographs.
I look at these pictures and don’t see anything erotic or sexually alluring. Instead, I see hot water pounding away at tender flesh, dissolving the accumulated stains of this year. Some of those stains were perhaps self-inflicted, but most of the mud and the dirt of the past twelve months was thrown, harshly, carelessly, without any regard for humanity.
I look at these pictures and remember how incredibly hot the water was, how red the model’s skin was from that water, and the fog that filled the room by the time we were done. Taking these pictures was challenging, both technically and artistically. There were plenty of obstacles to overcome. Yet, again, none match the reality of struggling to survive this year.
You have had your own struggles. As you examine these photos perhaps you find in them your own metaphors, your own interpretations of how your life is different now than it was in January.
For all of us, may this be a time of cleansing, the moment where we repudiate all the nonsense, the hyperbole, the hurt, and the pain, and prepare ourselves to start clean in the next year. Yes, we will still have to wear masks. We will still have to avoid crowds and remain socially distant. Best estimates are that it will be this time next year before the US reaches 70% immunity and even that is a best-case scenario. Still, this time we know what we’re facing. We know the challenges. We know what we have to do.
We start clean. We move forward. Naked. Unashamed to be who and what we are.