By and large, the pandemic stole my caché of whimsey. As a disabled artist, navigating daily life in a world that continues to dismiss the simple need to wear a mask to keep vulnerable communities safe is beyond soul-crushing. Living with the constant paranoia of interacting with careless, infected people has driven my partner, who is also high risk, and I to continue many of our lockdown habits, including staying home. Happy Hours in bars and restaurants have been replaced with zoom calls and hour-long phone calls. I've saved a lot of money and cut back my drinking by 90%, it's a win/win; though I do miss the appetizers.
I've also learned which friendships are made to endure, because I can't do much with able-bodied people have the luxury of saying "I'm done with zoom calls. I have zoom fatigue, I'm over them." Leveraging phone and video calls enable chronically-ill and disabled people to connect with friends, family and health care providers safely and efficiently, especially in the month of December when the desire to keep close with loved ones is at an all-time high, on par with hospital capacity due to RSV, flu and COVID patients.
What I miss is meeting new people at gallery shows, concerts, queer events and house parties. Most of all I miss performing, traveling, seeing theater and symphonies. Art & music making, hiking and telescoping keep me busy enough, and my friends are bomb af so there's nothing I'm thirsting for interpersonally. However what I've been lacking since I had to cancel my retrospective tour to Italy in spring of 2020 is the bliss of having dreams to work towards and manifest.
Early this fall, we decided we were ready for a change. If we were going to be indoors all the time, it should be in a house with an epic backyard instead of an apartment with a shared backyard. I've wrestled with the capacity of my return to live performance for almost three years now, and the unending frustration over risk assessment in order to do it equitably and safely made me give up trying. Equity is really important to me, it's non-negotiable and I have no hesitation in walking away if a steep downturn should occur. No opportunity is worth it to me if the people who promise to protect me and keep me safe squelch on the deal. At this point in my career, fifteen years in, I know my thresholds, and they've been weakened so drastically by the blatant disregard for chronically ill and disabled lives that I ran out of fucks to give years ago.
Before my diabetes diagnosis in 2019, I was out there licking telephone poles with the rest of them. Freebasing germs on the red line was a Saturday night delight. Now my partner and I chose our health and safety over all other options, at the expense of my creative career, and if we do take the risk - it's been well assessed and we boost our protocol to be better prepared. I figured since I wasn't going to be performing in anyone else's shows, I shouldn't host my work on other people's platforms either - that's how I arrived at the decision to retire my Substack and only publish my work on my own site. It felt like there was no way for me to dream big when the requirements for traditional success are very inaccessible for neurodivergent, chronically ill and disabled people: in-person promo events, traveling to gigs, conventions, galas, dinners, award shows, class presentations, festivals y mas.
Therefore, I had grown content with becoming a reclusive seaside witch that keeps a private art practice and falls deep into healing, meditative trances. The business takes a lot out of you, because when you're not hauling ass on a project, you are beating yourself up for not doing a project or not doing more with your "free time" (as if merely existing isn't productive enough), and doing more is a never ending, expansive task. If you think about the purpose of our basic humanity, it has nothing to fucking do with branding, schedules or tumeric lattes and has everything to do with regulating your nervous system, deep belly breath, walking in nature and connecting wit your community. Moving to a beachside town has given me a dream, for the first time in years, that I can fantasize about and work towards. Moving to a new state is thrilling and romantic and terrifying and deliciously exciting. I've only ever known Chicago as the center of my universe my entire life, which is why I've done so much traveling; to say my heart is breaking is an understatement. I already miss here and I'm still here, I believe this is when the old adage "no pain, no gain" becomes relevant.
Losing the ability to be a dreamer took a much larger toll on me than I had realized. Pre-pandemic, all my big life goals were made as an able-bodied person who was somewhat tolerant of absolute fuckshit from producers and collaborators for the sake of booking the gig, to stack my CV, to prepare me for the next asshole who was going to be leading the bigger project with a bigger budget. Going to art school gives you a preview of this, it prepares you to bite the curb until someone rescues you, uplifts you and pulls a chair up at the table for you. And don't me started on learning the ugly truths about all the elite art and culture orgs I had one day hoped to collaborate with or be featured at. It seemed all the momentum I had worked so hard for over twelve years to generate was falling by the wayside.
A funny thing happens when you're an artist who has been at it for as long as I have, you make repeated attempts at leaving the scene - only to be yanked back in. It seems the more adamant you are about leaving, the more dramatically you get dragged back into they fray. This happened me recently when the very kind Sarah Shaw recommended Food Over Function via her new Substack: Found Objects a week and a half after I wrote what I was planning to be my last post. It's a blessing to have people who believe in you when you want to throw in the towel. Keep an eye out for a new Substack post soon!
Then I decided to apply to The One Minutes - Rest Hard: an act of doing nothing in a safe company By Party Office. This gave me the creative challenge I was craving, which lead me to make An Abundance of Lavender, a short film that I shot, directed and scored + edited by my partner. I wrapped on it tonight and feel absolutely electric when I watch it. Can't wait to debut it next week! It's my first film in three years and the very first time I've ever composed my own score, the process of which will get its own blog because it was a wild and fun experience. I forgot how happy filmmaking makes me and can't wait to do more. I think my next one is going to be about tasting menus!
Thanks for sticking with me through the ups and the downs this year. For the first time in a long while, it doesn't feel like all the doors are closing because I continue to prioritize my wellbeing over my career. The equitable opportunities I once could only dream about are finally finding their way to me and it feels really good to have my head in the clouds again. She's bringing whimsey back.
Maybe one day I'll tell you all about the twelve lives I've lived since we ventured to the earth's edge back in May and the profound effect Montauk has on a person's heart and soul (that Eternal Sunshine isn't too far off from). Maybe I'll show you the watercolor ink paintings that took over my sketchbook this summer, or the blueprints for the new book I'm working on. Maybe I'll tell you some of the stand-up jokes I've been writing since September or about how meditating saved me and my year from exploding. Maybe I won't because I'm preoccupied with living a life centered on nervous system regulation, bountiful creativity, rest and wild, life-changing decisions that defy everything I've ever planned for, everything I was once confident my life was leading to. I'm learning to create a supportive ecosystem within myself that champions the rejuvenating enjoyment of my artmaking process, without the stifling expectations of regimented success. I've also come to understand that not everyone is meant to ride the elevator up with me, and that while self-preservation is difficult - it is always worth it. Hard truths never come easy.
I decided to do an animation for my final project for the Comics in Journalism class I took at SVA, which wrapped up yesterday. It feels great to have officially graduated! I'm proud of the work I did and highly recommend taking a class with Sarah Shaw if you can, I am forever spoiled by her woman-focused, BIPOC prioritized curriculum. It's like eating a freshly boiled lobster that was caught on the boat floating next to the dock you're standing on, after a lifetime of living landlocked - you didn't know it could be so good - standards forever ruined by thoughtful intersectionality.
It kinda sucks that of all my hobbies, comics is one of my most adored but by far the most time-consuming. I love making them but they are a bear to do complete. I no longer enjoy spending hours chained to my desk, my life priorities have shifted this year and sitting in a room by myself on sunny days is a bummer I can't keep ignoring. As a result, my goal over the next few weeks is to figure out what that sweet spot looks like for me to find between alone time and hangout time. Pre-pandemi I was a hardXcore extrovert, but over the last 2 years I have grown to see the many perks of being an introvert and so now I find myself to be a switch ; ) for the very first time in my life. My first experiment will be to see if I can tap into my circadian rhythm so I can write more in the morning, leaving my evenings free for more spontaneity. It's an interesting journey I've been on, thanks for riding along side!
This animation spells out "ENJOY IT WHILE YOU GOT IT," as I've realized lately we often fail to recognize how good something is when we're in the moment - sometimes it takes something bad to happen, insert COVID, to realize how special a moment was when in the moment it was a "mundane," ordinary thing - that's why I wanted to use ghosts to represent the haunting feeling that sometimes comes with the disconnect between now and then. I'm working harder to be more present, and not so concerned with what was or what will be. I'm blessed to say the future has often been better than I could've imagined and the past carries the fine line of appreciation and inprisionment, because it's easy to freeze-frame a time, a place, a person to only be that thing. The truth is the only thing that stays the same is the reality of change, to revere the past sidetracks the present moment.
Here's a comic I made for class this week, I want to push myself to see what other definitions of a comic I could come up with. This comic uses the mechanism that is often used to build puppet crankies - the idea of taking 2 handles, attaching a scroll between them and then scrolling the image across a window that's usually cut out of a wooden or cardboard box. I write more about this building process on Substack, sharing it here because that platform doesn't support gifs - so I'll be using my blog as a repository for my animated work to link out to from there.
Food has been a lifelong passion of mine, as has writing - yet the two only ever cross paths every blue moon. My audience has always encouraged me to write more food-focused work, so I decided to throw my back into it this year and commit to publishing on Substack. You can sign up here for my free newsletter if you want food-centric essays and comics like the Chicago-Style Hot Dog delivered right to your inbox.
UPDATE: My original goal was to publish weekly, however through the process of trying to keep to that rigorous schedule, I learned my life doesn't allow for that frequency. So I've changed my publishing cadence to whenever I find the time, because if it doesn't bring me joy - it's outta here!!
¿Como se dice "Un Blog?"
Here is where I share announcements of all shapes and sizes, and deep dive into my art and music making practices. I aim to demystify the creative process for BIPOC women & NBs.
© 2013 - 2023 Allyson Gonzalez - All Rights Reserved