The Beginning of New Chapter: Life Post 2020 or seeing the world through the Mask of hope.

Me in studio

The Recent Past

2020 was one of illness, health, struggle, great decisions, stress, patience, loss, building, destroying, moving, arriving, discovery, learning, teaching, zooming, healing, spiritual growth, friendship and family.  The masks have acted as a metaphor or in many ways as a vehicle upon which I have ridden the wave allowing it to wash over the present moment and what life has become or perhaps what it is becoming.  From a deeply philosophical point of view what life has become and what it is becoming are one in the same. Since the present moment is really all there is.

The most difficult part of this past year has been trying to see the world through a mask of optimism and hope.  This task was made easier through the acts of kindness and generosity experienced.  My family, friends, former students and neighbors in Muncie and across the globe are largely responsible for reminding me there is a purpose in continuing, in making sure one still acts with integrity and seeing the future as a place that can be filled with Light and joyful activity.

Here’s a little roundup of activity:

The shutdown caused a total loss of all income. All three businesses running at the Mansion came to a total stop. 

The end of February, after the shut down, brought the need make a very pragmatic decision about the financial future of the studio.  The decision was to put the Mansion up for sale and find a new, more sustainable space for the studio if possible.  

February into mid-May saw the delivery of meals nearly everyday from my neighbors down the street, April – July saw marathon 12 hour days 7 days a week in the completion of the exterior restoration on the Mansion which involved multiple visits from my brother and the help of a hired friend who I could not have completed the work without. 

May – July saw the destruction and disposal of nearly 300 of the plaster molds I had created over the years in preparation for the move.  During all of this activity I taught a private teacher training workshop to a former colleague with a small group of volunteer students, taught a zoom class on devising with masks (uhg!), was blessed with a few custom mask-making projects, managed to provide space in the Mansion to help get a state representative elected and provide a small private venue for two dear friends to get married.

In July the restoration work was finished and the Mansion was listed for sale.  I was blessed to work with who I think is possibly the best real estate agent in Muncie.  He became a good friend throughout the process and was truly an advocate looking out for my best interests.  This turned out to be essential since the buyers ignored there was anyone involved in the process other than them, and caused delay after delay including,“ forgetting to, or not knowing to,” bring money to the closing in October.

September – October involved a 4 state search for a new home for the studio and me.  I had friends and family looking all over the country for new digs. There were so many generous offers for space and so many people going out of their way to send me notices of property for sale. During that time I received calls and emails from friends and colleagues all over the world offering words of encouragement and solidarity.  My brother’s mother in law, a retired real estate agent, was the person who found the property I landed in. I made immediate friends the day we toured the property. As we came out of the home the first viewing, I met a couple of the Ridgewood gays walking their dog Riggs and felt I had not only found the perfect studio space but also a neighborhood I could live in. Oh, and the studio came with a really nice house attached.

New Studio in Canton, Ohio

October saw the final pack happen at the Mansion.  I actually practiced the truck pack for the studio twice to make sure everything would fit.  Much selling and giving away of stuff happened and then on two weekends we loaded out the studio.  By we, I mean all of my friends, former students and neighbors crazy enough to want to help carry everything out of the Mansion and get in into the truck. Weekend one was the carrying of everything from the 3rd floor of the mansion to the carriage house and weekend two was the truck pack, the drive to Ohio, the studio load in and the drive back to Indiana to load out the furniture and personal belongings, pack the truck and drive back to Ohio. The truck sat for a week (I had to wait for the previous owners to move out of the living spaces of the home) and then for the first time in my adult life I had family helping me to clean, unpack boxes and get settled. 

Then stillness.

The holidays came and went.  Bottles of booze and wine kept getting left on my front porch by people I had never seen or met and the New Year has seen a continued building new friendships with my neighbors.  I have met with the CEO of the local Arts and Culture Center cooking up projects, booked a gallery show for the fall (have yet to sign the contract…) had the local paper run a lovely article on the studio and have spent many wonderful weekends with family.

January also brought a very welcome surprise in the form of a growing number of orders for masks from the studio.  The orders have yet to stop coming.  Life is busy and so now looking into the world through a very different mask than the one facing the future I had put on 12 months ago.

A Community Lost: A Community Gained

As I reflect on the grand pivot of this past year I think a great deal about the community that I left and the time spent helping to build community, helping to create a city in which people enjoyed living and the cultivation of friendships.  The arts are an essential part of life and our humanity.  The more they can be brought into the foreground in the crazy world of instant, superficial gratification, commercialism and the online world of selling the marketing of marketing marketing, the healthier and happier people and communities will be.  The arts community in the little, often downtrodden mid-western rustbelt city of Muncie is second to none.  It is sophisticated, filled with integrity, passionate and dedicated to creating a renaissance within the community itself.  I will miss being a part of that group, of that community. I learned a lot form the people there.  They made me feel welcome, a part of a community and a valued friend.

Now a foundation for a new path is being laid.  I am in a new home, a new community and a place that is ripe for growth.  I feel energized and excited about meeting the amazing people I know are here. I have found myself looking into the world with a mask of anticipation, wonder and excitement.  It’s a mask I wore a long time ago as a youth on a journey that lead a mid-western boy to New York City and then to Paris, France.  Here I am, after all these years away, returning home now seeing the place I grew up in with the mask of wonder and excitement I found in the discovery of far away places.

Canton Ohio
Downtown Canton

The Present Moment

In order to survive the turmoil of this past year I looked deeply inward to find stillness and calm so as to find a way toward a focus on the moment I was in, discover what was there, use that information and then step into the next moment and repeat.  Life became a journey of discoveries in the present moment when I could keep it there.  The tactics reminded me a lot of the neutral mask work I experienced as a young actor. 

In many ways I had to develop a warrior ethos and simply keep moving toward what scared me most.  The fear was really the possible loss of the studio and having to start over without the dreams of a young artist. There were so many unknowns.  the fist step had to be: move forward without a visible solution to head toward.

Crested Butte, CO

I thought often of a hike I took with my cousin Eric several years ago.  Eric is an Arctic explorer and his motto is, “one step at a time.” The day we hiked together I found myself a couple of times way outside of my comfort zone doing exactly that.  Focusing on each step, completing the simple task and then moving on to the next. There is so much information is this type of simple action, in this method of discovery.

I find myself having to return to this way of thinking and living multiple times a day in order to stay the course and get the studio back to a place were I can once again look into the world with a mask of confidence; and from a practical point of view, an actual income.

For the moment though there is a lot going on.  I am working constantly to fill orders for clients both nationally and internationally, I’m adding new designs and updating old ones and exploring and developing new processes with new materials as I reach toward presenting whatever skill sets I have developed in more of the fine art and collectors market.

On many days I don the masks of the explorer and the seeker and leap into the unknown.

Plans for the future

I have been considering of late the possibility of work outside of the arts and have discovered I find life as a creative is where I must be.   Artists get to explore and create who they are and how the world sees them.  They are the canvas upon which they themselves paint rather than a blank canvas upon which paint its randomly spattered by others attempting to impose a foreign definition or identity.

I have also come to realize how important it is as an artist to create, live and inspire within the communities where we live.  It is the communities outside of our greatest commercial centers that are in need of the arts the most.  My goals are to inspire and excite those that might never have thought about the arts much but instead live their day to day trying to survive while attempting to cultivate a better path for their future.  Those are the people who deserve the arts of the highest quality the most.  Touching the world on this level is in my eyes seeing the world through the mask of true success.

So this is my goal.  It is important to not be distracted when moving toward the goal.  Not by financial setbacks, not by arrows, or storm troupers, or werewolves or even bacon….. well maybe bacon.

Enjoy the new site.  There is a lot to explore.  New designs, the fine art offerings, photographs and the arts carnival community; Join, peruse and buy a mask so that you too can see the world from a new and different perspective.