Lately I have been thinking a lot about work. In March 2020, just when Covid was starting, several people at work were laid off. Among them, several good friends. Then in March 2021, just as vaccines were becoming more available to most, we had lay offs again at work. Again, several of my close friends were affected. When these things occur, it is normal to think about your own work future. Even though I know many people have lost their jobs and have found others, it is still an unsettling feeling.  

I have been with the same company for over 20 years, something uncommon in these day and age. Why have I stayed so long? In part, because the company and my coworkers are phenomenal. From what I know about ex coworkers who left for greener pastures, not every company has the same culture that we have. But if I am being honest, and I always try to be, it’s also easier to stay in a company or situation that is known, instead of venturing into uncharted waters. Starting work in another company or starting my own is something that gives me anxious feelings just thinking about it.  

But then, the other day, I attended an event, in which several local galleries opened their doors, and the artists were present to explain their vision. It was the first time in more than a year that I attended such a live event, and of course, all health precautions were considered.  Talking to these artists made me realize how different they are from me, in the way they see themselves, their work and mission.

I have been attending these art events for several years. I started going because my friend invited me; he’s a photographer who gets inspired from other fellow artists. I am definitely not an artist, but I always enjoyed listening to their stories, and secretly wondering what drives people to work in “unsecure” professions. I noticed that most of them, at some point or another, worked in regular professions, you know, the ones that come with a regular biweekly paycheck. But they all came back to art, and as one told me, “I would die if I did not paint.” Wow, I cannot remember ever saying that about what I do for a living!

I met an artist who makes collages from actual letters and photographs from people and situations long passed. Another one creates art from collected debris expelled by the ocean during beach walks. Another one uses microscope slides containing blood samples to display the concept that we are all connected by blood. I realized how some of the things most of us dismiss can be repurposed in different ways: to maintain a legacy, to bring awareness to a topic, or to see how we’re all not that different.

Another realization I had from talking to these artists is how meaning moves their career choices. A young mixed media artist told me how affected she was by seeing her dad work in building high end apartments, and once his work was finished, all his entrance permits would be revoked. Likewise, her mom would clean mansions that she would never be able to live in. Her work now addresses the issue of not overlooking those that are essential to the creation and maintenance of what we consider luxury.

It takes an artist’s mind to question ideas that we have accepted for centuries. Why do we use a material (wood, metal or plastic), color, or texture for furniture? Was it by chance or by culture or by economics? What makes something high end? Does the pedigree of a particular style matter now? In 100 years from now, what will people think of?

In contrast, most people I know, including me, think only of the benefits a job gives us (401-k, pension, etc.), how many years we have left to retire, and what we will do once we are free from work. How we’ll finally have time to travel, take a music or art class, or just rest. I wonder if we ever think about how we spend so many years of our lives doing an activity, call it work, without considering why we are doing it, if we are happy doing it, and if there are other options.

My takeaways from artists are many, but I will only mention some here. To them, their work is an extension of themselves, and it includes their background, experiences, relationships, etc. They have strong feeling about societal issues, and they use their artistic talents to share them with others. They question and challenge existing ideas and connect the dots on thoughts that seem unrelated at first sight.

Perhaps we could get inspiration from artists’ way of thinking and apply it to our own work. Find something that makes us passionate, we all have one, and share it via art, speech, writing, etc. By feeling and sharing our ideas, they become food for thought, conversation and hopefully, understanding.

Art by Barbara Roca
Art by Bibiana Martinez
Art by Olan Quattro

These are some of the amazing artists, with whom I had the pleasure to chat:

Nathalie Alfonso:

Joyce Billet:

Adolfo Bimer:

Polen Cerci:

Peter Hosfeld:

Claudio Marcotulli:

Bibiana Martinez:

Rosa Naday Garmendia:

Devora Perez:

Olan Quattro:

Barbara Roca:

Leyden Rodriguez-Casanova:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s