burning bridges: leave me alone

Do you ever get a song stuck in your head? Not an earworm, exactly, but a song that's easily triggered or a tune you hum doing a particular activity? For example, I have no idea why, but I often find myself launching into "Singing in the Rain" each evening while cleaning up the kitchen. Is it the water from washing the dishes? I have no idea. Lately, though, I've been repeating this little mantra over and over again:
Leave me alone, leave me alone
All alone all alone
All by myself
Those are three lines from They Might Be Giants' song "Fingertips", off of their 1992 album Apollo 18. Yes, I’m craving solitude while I’m almost never alone. Maybe because I’m never alone. Like craving chocolate when you're on a diet. The closest I get to alone time is running at 5:30 in the morning, which is why I do it at that time. When randomly presented with the opportunity to run on a weekend afternoon, for example, I’m all, “the people! the sun! my backside in these running tights!” No, before dawn is much better.

It's okay, studio spider. You can stay.
But there’s more to it than that. I don't consider myself to be a shy or quiet person but I don’t mind being alone, either. In fact, I like it. I think I need it from time to time. And I think it has something to do with being an artist, having a creative mindset that demands some space and time and distance from everything and everyone else in my life. This all dovetails nicely into thinking about picking up on my "burning bridges" series and the work I did toward the end of college for painter and professor Katherine Sherwood.

I first met Katherine in a mixed media class at UC Berkeley. I don't have a lot of memories from that class other than creating crocheted "bills" with the symbols for various stitches embroidered on them in response to her assignment to create a currency thinking about value. I did and still do very much value my time in the studio and the time it takes to craft something. Anyway, I went on to take a painting class with her and an independent study in my final year. It was during that semester that she asked me to work as her research assistant on a new class she was developing titled Art, Medicine, and Disability. And when she first taught the class during the first semester after my graduation, I stayed on as a sort of post-undergraduate teaching assistant.

I loved it. Easily one of my favorite gigs. In addition to helping compile and continually tweak the class reader, I checked out slides for her lectures, helped coordinate visitors, and gave a couple of presentations over the course of the semester. It was also during this time that my caffeine addiction began since she'd give me enough money each of the two weekdays I worked for her to run across the street from Kroeber Hall to Cafe Strada to buy her coffee (a half-caf latte with whole milk, if I remember correctly) and treat myself to a white chocolate mocha. Might as well start with the best, right? 

Anyway, after that semester the work passed on to other current undergrads. Katherine wrote recommendation letters for my grad school applications but other than that we've lost touch, even though I've been back in the Bay Area for almost six years and have visited Kroeber Hall several times (which in itself is such a strange experience, how things can change so drastically and yet stay almost exactly the same). But I've been thinking of her lately because of something she said in an interview she gave during the time I was working for her. I came across my hard copy of works + conversations a few months ago, flipped right to this page, and her thoughts on solitude have stuck with me since. You can read the entire interview here. Editor Richard Wittaker is discussing the idea of seeing art in the studio.
RW: You mentioned earlier that you wouldn't want people to see your art here in your studio, that it's such a private space, and there's something about the privacy of art making, that's...

KS: ...that's very essential for me. I long for that solitude that I can get in the studio.

RW: Is there anything more you can say about that?

KS: For me, that's where art is made. I love the fact that I get to go to my studio and work by myself.
"Long(ing)" for "solitude". "Work by myself." Yes. Me, too. One day.

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