Monday, February 03, 2014

Routines of Writers and Artists...But Who Does the Laundry?

Been reading a really interesting book by Mason Currey DAILY RITUALS: HOW ARTISTS WORK. . It is a fun quick read. You can just skim through the one to page descriptions of well know visual artists, composers, poets and writers. Of course I am most interested in the women, though there are few and are spread far between the men.

Jane Austen (1775-1817) ...

wrote her wonderful novels like...


at a tiny wobbly table facing the door, early in the morning, so that if anyone was coming in the room, she could hide them. She also helped oversee the household with her mother and sister. In Austen's case, many hands made light work.

Agatha Christie (1890-1976)...

 who wrote riveting mysteries like....


 always put "married woman" as her occupation, never "writer" and slipped away, after her other duties  were done, to write...

On the other extreme were artists like Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1996)...

who coming from a certain level of society and having a certain level of success, could stay in bed as long as she wished and paint as long as she wished, either on the East Coast or in her hide away in Abiqui New Mexico, because others were figuring everything else for her. No need to think about food, house hold duties or traveling itineraries. I know that from reading many of the letters between O'Keeffe and one of her assistants Marla Chabot,

who would get the artists homes in New Mexico ready for her through World War 2 and then cook and drive the artist around the high desert to paint scenes like this...

Having staff, an assistant, a spouse or a lover that pretty much took care of everything else was certainly a big perk for the artists featured in Currey's book and Alice B. Toklas, Gertrude Stein's companion certainly has to take the cake for the most willing to support Greatness...

Wikipedia list Toklas' occupation as Avante Garde, didn't realize that paid so well. 

In DAILY RITUALS:HOW ARTISTS WORK, Currey describes a ritual, that even if it is only half true is pretty crazy. Stein and Toklas,  would drive out into the country, after Toklas took care of the morning ritual of bathing their poodle and brushing its teeth, and find a cow, for Stein to gaze upon to be able to write. I am not, nor I think Currey is making this up. Toklas job was to herd said cow into the right position for inspiration to come and if it did not, to go find another cow. 

I asked Jon if he would go find me a cow to gaze upon....or bring me croissants, if he determined by how I was pacing in my studio I wanted another one, the ritual of bring scheduled food to writers mentioned several times in Currey's book....yeah, not happening. 

Are you a woman, are you laugh? Are you not surprised, that circumstances could slowly evolve where the wife/lover/housekeeper of these male writers would find themselves with strict instructions on the level of noise, visitors and eating times...

Pablo Picasso...

who was  a friend of Stein and painted her, in the Avante Garde years in Paris...

had a lover, Fernande, who waited around for him all day to come out of his studio for dinner and then he was grumpy when he did.

Yeah, that would not fly in this house. But I have been a wife and a mother for over twenty years and guess who has played the support staff around here all that time. It was not I who declared that my favorite hard pillow was not getting to my side of the bed on a regular basis the other day, with the expectation something would be done about that.
I am the one driving around and finding the cows...or driving back and forth from our little "village", where daughter #2 still goes to school and taking her to after school activities in the bigger town some distance away, where there is no coffee shop, no starbucks at all, that is open after 4 pm, so I go to the library and try and get some more work done, though really want to be in my studio that time of day. I am really only good at writing in the morning....yeah I know I used "good" incorrectly, but it's getting late in the day.
Yeah, finding cows. 
There is grocery shopping, laundry, proclamations of hair cuts and needs for dress shirts for court the morning of, there are fifteen togos needing to be made for costume for the High School One Acts and the nearest fabric store is a hour and a half away. 
I spent Saturday, figuring out how to watch the Super Bowl through our internet but viewed on our flat screen. With twist ties in hand, plus  a vacuum and a broom, I was also the one to organize all the cables that had been intertwined amongst the said TV, the Blueray, the Xbox and the Roku box. All covered in dog hair and dust in the corner behind the TV stand and I hate the sound of sports broadcast and we don't watch football and I don't want to talk about how I am from Colorado! But I was most definitely spent the weekend finding other peoples cows.
I really am not complaining, I think it is kind of  funny, that O'Keeffe or Stein needed to stay so far away from the reality of our world as women to create. 
I don't know what I would create if not finding cows, being a taxi service and a support staff and am eternally grateful to Jon, that over the past twenty years, he has worked so hard to allow me to stay home and make my art, write and most importantly be a mother to our girls.
I can find some cows for him, or make sure the pillow he likes is on his side of the bed.


  1. grace7:54 PM

    The mundane aspects of life do seem to gobble up so much of a day,don't they. Either through less sleep and/or more energy you have created so many vibrant pieces that light up your posts so there must be something you know about managing.Juggling perhaps:) Thanks for sharing!

  2. Brilliant post-thoroughly entertaining and raw edged. I too ponder whether Real Life inspires or gets in the way. What would life and art be like if someone else got our cows for us?

  3. I once had a partner that claimed we lived in squalor - while I had a full-time job and he didn't. Seems he thought it was my job to keep the house clean too. He didn't stay a partner for long!

  4. Thanks for this great book review. Yes, are we creative because of life's many duties and distractions (especially women), or despite them? Deep, New Year's kind of question!

  5. I admire anyone who can run a house, look after a family, work and still find time to be creative for themselves. This book sounds interesting though.

  6. Women do these jobs day in, day out, and rarely get any praise for doing. If a man changes a nappy/takes children to school/does washing/cleaning only irregularly, there is a chorus of 'Hurray! Oh aren't you lucky to have him!' Let us now praise women's work.