As I sit here in my bedroom/studio in NYC I can’t help but reflect upon these last many months as we get closer to the year anniversary of our COVID life. It is really hard to remember the time when we didn’t have to wear masks or socially distance, a time when we could just go out to a restaurant spontaneously. It is hard to remember that we could actually have family over without having to consider the potential dire consequences of such a gathering. Needless to say it has taken a toll on all of us and it is so hard not to stay in a prolonged depression. I think we all have been mourning what our lives used to be and wondering when we can get them back again.
And then out of the blue there will be a glimmer of hope, a hope that has been so illusive most of the time. It can be something as simple as a lovely day that sparks reminiscences of other beautiful days when that feeling of possibility was before us. All of these things have been on my mind and I have had quite an existential struggle of late. Those days of promise have seemed so hard to come by.
While I never set out to make a specific collage, all that is me – my essence – is always with me at the start of making one. It is only inevitable that what has been on my mind seeps into my collages. And so it is with my collage The Glow Remains. For me it is a reminder that no matter how somber things might be, there is that glow, those moments of undeniable light that keep us all going. For the light is essential. It is simply too exhausting not to have glimmers of it that we can hang onto during those times when our souls are challenged, when our spirits have never felt so low. And so through everything I have made this collage where I can, at least for the duration of making it, remain in light.
I have written this elsewhere but it was such an impactful experience. When I was a little girl I spent a lot of my time during summer under water. It was my safe place, a place where I felt totally protected by the feeling of the water on my body. Everything seemed different under water. The most ordinary of objects were transformed by the light that penetrated the water. The reflections danced every time the water moved and I could follow them on the bottom of the pool for hours. That is when I fell in love with light and color, how it brought out the magic of something on the pool’s bottom and made everything change into glittering diamonds.
My safe place is where I began my life as a collage artist and my love for turning life into pictures. I never went to art school or anything like that because I learned through my own experimentation and the mistakes I have made. Even as a child I always thought visually, but not the kind of visual where I drew or painted. My mind doesn’t think that way. I think in impressions and where things go on a frame, like the wood frames I use in my collages. Instead of paintbrushes and pens or pencils, I use stamps and stencils-some of them store bought and some that I make myself.
For me it is wood and photos. I find most digital collage too neat and precise. I think I fall somewhere between a painter and a colIage artist these days if digital collage is the barometer. I enhance my photos with pigment ink, oil pastel and sometimes watercolor. But the background is photographs I have taken, or even photos of pieces of other collages I have made. I print the photos and use them as a first layer.
I have my cast of characters that I use again and again in my collages, but I put them in different visual situations. They have become my visual language, a language I have fallen in love with. Because I initially create very spontaneously, making collages for me is much like playing, and really isn’t that what it is all about? And having that play reveal new things about myself the more I do it over and over. Of course I want my collages to make others feel something new too-that is thrilling-but I also want to keep reinventing myself as an artist because it is the closest thing I have to that special time I spent underwater.
I haven’t written for a while because for the life of me I didn’t have anything to say. My thoughts have been too muddled and confused, but then again it has been a very confusing and fearful time. I wasn’t quite sure how to put that into words. Then the inauguration of Biden/Harris happened. While I was on pins and needles the entire day fearing another violent happening, the next day brought hope. I felt as if after 4 harrowing years that I could finally exhale. I made Garden of Delight the day after the inauguration, and while I didn’t purposely set out to make a hopeful collage, that spirit was in me. So instead of writing about it I will just let the collage speak for itself.
As I sit here on this frigid but brilliant morning in NYC my mind is spiraling around with all sorts of thoughts. Maybe it is because the New Year is just two weeks away. These times lend themselves to examination or ordering of loves as Gail Godwin says in her book The Good Husband. I have no idea what 2021 will bring, but maybe instead of trying to predict the future I should try to create it as A.J. Parkinson said.
When I created my collage Spiraling Ahead I didn’t consciously have these thoughts in mind, but my subconscious sure did. It all comes down to how I create-ruminating and then letting a piece evolve that stems from these ruminations. While I meticulously refine the initial impetus for a collage is rather spontaneous with each addition dictating what follows.
So what of ordering my loves? Collage is certainly right up there, but the thing that surprises me the most is that it is not the main thing. First would have to be my love for my companion, my friend of the bosom as Joan Fontaine says in the Hitchcock movie Rebecca. For a friend of the bosom is not replaceable. If collage were taken away from me tomorrow I would find another creative outlet. Not that I am not passionate about making collage for I can think of nothing that I’d rather be doing. But a match is hard to find and when you have found it, like I have, you know what a precious gift it is.
All I know is that in this New Year I will be Spiraling Ahead with my 2 loves tucked underneath my arm, and I can’t think of a more blessed way to try to create my future than with these 2 treasures.
I experienced a major transformation in July 2020-one of the only good things that happened this year. As with any transformation in life I wasn’t looking for it, but it mowed me down. I suppose all the work had been done before and I was preparing myself for it without even knowing it. I was raised Catholic, but I have not been a practicing Catholic since I was in grammar school and I am now 62. While I had been forced to go to church I was not a believer. Yet the Catholic iconography was imprinted in my mind and still to this day I hold on to it. So maybe that is why the word transformation is so rich in meaning for me-the transformation of Christ comes to mind with all of its provocative imagery. It is a cross to bear so to speak, or maybe just a colorful way to express what is so illusive to express in words.
So what was this major transformation of mine? It hit me like a lightening bolt: I was a survivor and no longer a victim, or as Gail Godwin wrote in her book Father Melancholy’s Daughter, I had gone from my who-ness to my what-ness. I was no longer a slave to my past, to the blaming of others for who I had become or didn’t become. I could now solely (or soully) live the life I was meant to live. My what-ness is now what is important in my life, my what-ness being my total dedication to being a collage artist. Gone was the doubt and blame as to why it had taken me so long to find it. The only thing that matters is that I am doing what I love and not how long it has taken me. I found collage when I was 60. It boggled my mind that it took so long, and when I was in my who-ness phase it mattered that I know why. Now it is enough just being here. The past is not now looked upon as an impediment to finding my calling, but it is the reason I found it.
In Father Melancholy’s Daughter there is a quote spoken by Father Gower, the Episcopalian priest, “Just ride your little donkey as best you can, focus daily on those places in your own existence where intensity blazes up…and let God do the rest.” You can substitute the word God for whatever, but being the old lapsed Catholic that I am, God it is. The thing that is important is that you do follow the path where there are the hottest blazes, the perpetual light, and then get out of the way and let what is out of your control take over. It has taken me years of darkness to find that blaze. You need the darkness to know the light. Sometimes it still takes me a bit to get back on track, but at least now I always know when I am off track. Not to sound too melodramatic, it is now a cross that enables me to carry out my what-ness, which allows me to live totally and in harmony with myself most times, and perhaps even the universe. That can sound rather grandiose and pompous, but I am talking about the feeling of there being a sense of rightness about what I am doing, and knowing when I am failing to do it. Knowing when I have let my donkey deviate. Now I just get slowly back on course instead of totally crashing.
As an artist I have fallen into the romance of the gallery trap. The image of the opening night has an allure-the collectors, the glitter, the glass of wine in the hand as everyone falls in love with my work and just can’t wait to buy. It is easy to kid yourself that this is the ultimate way to “make it big.” I remember once seeing a photo of sculptor/painter Eva Hesse, one of my favorite artists ever, dressed up so glamorously in black dress and pearls on one of her opening nights. For some reason that photo became a symbol for me of success. She lived in a time when galleries had a different impact. She sadly died well before the age of the internet in her early 30’s of a brain tumor.
Times have certainly changed since her death in 1970. When Eva was alive galleries were the only way for an artist to sell work and gain recognition. I have two art careers-one before the internet and one after, and in between those two careers I had no art career at all. Having to work outside of my art in order to survive, art fell off to the side. It wasn’t until I turned 60 that art re-emerged into my life, and now at 62 as a collage artist, I am thoroughly involved in my art again.
My second art career happened pre-COVID. I fell into the gallery submission trap. While I had some success at having my work shown, it was nothing compared to the rejections. I pour my guts into my work, and then having a judge tell me it wasn’t good enough to show was the ultimate kick in the stomach. And in the end I sold nothing and wasted money on submission and shipping fees.
And then COVID came and galleries cancelled their shows, showed them to sparse crowds or had them online. It was becoming clear that there had to be another way for artists to go, one where we weren’t so dependent on others selling our work. Before COVID I had a Saatchi art website mainly to direct galleries to my work. I never really expected to sell anything on that platform. I had a Shopify store for my pottery, but I didn’t want to use it for my art. Enter Art Storefronts, an amazing platform totally designed for photographers and artists. Just as important is their detailed marketing plan to help you get leads and followers, essential to any online selling endeavor. I am just at the beginning of selling on Art Storefronts. I am in desperate need of more customers, more leads. Yet it is now all in my hands and I am dependent only on myself, which is scary and exhilarating at the same time.
So where do galleries stand for me in the future. As I write this I honestly have no idea. Is that image of Eva too seared in my brain to write them off for good? Or at some point will they be a potential revenue stream among my other endeavors? Right now I consider them my competition. COVID has definitely removed them from my radar. Right now this is life during wartime.
It might seem like quite a leap to go from clay-mud really-to paper collage. I would have thought so had it not happened to me as I lay waiting for something to stir me in my depressed state. I wasn’t expecting anything-it was ghost-like and untouchable. But mysterious things often are. We reach to touch and they dissolve causing us to doubt their power to begin with. Ephemeral really.
I felt my pottery days dwindling. While I loved clay, being a city potter had its great limitations. I didn’t have my own kiln; I had so little control over the final product being reliant on the glazes provided by the studio where I was renting space. Pottery seems more to me a vocation that is best suited to country living-not for me who lives in Manhattan. But the one thing pottery could teach me, even living in NYC, was how to create, how to get to the core of how I should create. That the materials you work with are partners and not adversaries. That creativity can’t be harnessed but has to evolve spontaneously as different elements are added. Only then can you start to refine to get to that rhythmic, dynamic whole.
And so while I loved being married to clay it was a relationship with limitations, one where I was dependent on too many outside variables. Like with any relationship that starts to sour, particularly when you have had such ecstatic moments while in it, I fell into a depression. For what was I to do without it? I had nothing else waiting in the wings. I was depending upon pottery to bring in money. Giving it up was literally a do or die situation. I felt I preferred death to living if I could not find that thing that I was passionate about, because not being passionate about the thing I would do would be intolerable. I had to find meaning in my life not just something that brought in money. So I stopped my life and waited for something I was not sure would ever come hoping the quiet would bring me something that noise could not.
I don’t know how to explain it. I hadn’t been thinking of collage, though collage was the art I loved doing most as a child. I have always thought in impression and the placement of objects rather than drawing or painting. One day I just started doing collage with no premeditation. I used objects and paper loving the texture and color. And then I did more and more and I haven’t stopped. Using paper, photos, pigment ink and oil pastel they just keep coming. And somehow now my life is back together.
After I made Calm Among The Ruins it provoked in me feelings I felt living in my first neighborhood on the Lower East Side in NYC. When I moved there in 1981 it was in the throes of being decimated. There were more drugs around than people it seemed, even though it was a very dense neighborhood. There were the original inhabitants, the oldest synagogue in the city and rows of abandoned buildings. It was a neighborhood in flux with this calm center. Buildings were being burned all around us, yet there was a core that was still intact.
But Calm Among The Ruins is closer to me than how it provoked feelings about my old neighborhood. It is more personal. As a 62 year old woman I think about the years of my manic and depressive episodes. Of days where all I wanted to do was die yet was too tired to even try to end it all. When times of elation felt dead to me and all that was ahead was just total blackness, or even worse an endless expansion of nothing. A world of no feelings but only a cocoon of joylessness-no calm, no consolation. The depressive part of manic depression left me limp. Gone were the days of delight over the smallest of things, that feeling of total well-being with the universe.
Yet through it all-and I don’t know how – there must have been this core running through me, this calm that was unrecognizable yet still there, a calm that in the present was illusive among the wreckage, among the ruins. It was a calm that held me together somewhere deep inside, so hidden that I was not even aware of it. When I made my collage Calm Among The Ruins these thoughts were not conscious. But they were such a core of my being that they came out visually before they whirled around in my head where I could grasp them. I suppose that it is a habit of mine to put meaning to a finished collage. I am always so astounded as to what I can express visually before my consciousness gets it. That is one of the beauties of visual art. You make a piece with your whole being, especially the parts that are buried. For me a finished collage is an emotional document, a document that is for ever a part of me; a document forever a part of time.
I have really taken a plunge. I have gone beyond my comfort zone and here I stand poised on the edge of a cliff. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. This blog brings me to the real heart of the matter: my website launch of goldaeigoart.com. It is hard to say “this is what I create”, offer it in public and let what is to be just happen. To know you can “fail” but do it anyway…that for me is difficult. Having always demanded perfection from myself, it is not easy to put my life out there, my life as a collage artist, and know that there will be people who absolutely loathe my work. I have to keep reminding myself that there is no other way, that I have to take all the rejection, but at the same time not forget all that has gone right. My work is out there; now I must really get to it.
While there is fear there is mostly excitement, the excitement that I have at knowing that failing or succeeding with Golda Eigo Art is on me and what I do. So in keeping with that excitement I am giving away a free framed print of Exuberant Blooms. It is really easy to enter. Either go to goldaeigoart.com and click on “New Website Giveaway” or click this link; https://www.goldaeigoart.com/new-website-giveaway. You will be taken to a page where all you have to do is enter your email. I will be announcing the winner on November 13. So now I am officially in the marketing portion. But as Bruce Springsteen sang;
My birth name is Karen Eigo, but professionally I go by Golda Disc Eigo or Golda Eigo. I can’t write about this without talking of Freddie Mercury. In the off chance that he needs an introduction he was the front man of the rock group Queen who died of AIDS in 1991. He had this lovely habit of renaming people, most often with a name of the opposite sex. So why Golda Disc? There was this record producer he knew who had a lot of gold discs and he renamed him Golda Disc and I fell in love right then and there. For you see I owe my life to Freddie. I was miserable in life at the time I read this…a 60 year old woman who was fed up with her life yet stuck. I was doing pottery then and I had a website yet depressed with it all. Then I started reading about Freddie and watching his videos and his sheer joy and exuberance knocked me down. I wanted to feel that. So I stopped my life. And in stopping my life collage emerged in it. I just let my life come to me in a sense and come it did. A passion that I had ceased to feel started slapping me in the face. And slowly I became Golda Disc Eigo.
But this story is not only about me. It is about all of us who feel our stomachs drop when we think about what we are doing. It is about all of us who fell into things and just kept going in spite of what our guts were telling us. For life is meant to be filled with what we love and finding that can be damned illusive. We are raised to think we have to get a good “education”, then a job, then a mate, then a house, then the kids and the cars and random other things. I am sure that there are some people who are very happy doing that. But the indoctrination is so strong from the time we are born that it is hard to escape it. I was lucky. I didn’t have children to think about so I could take the leap of stopping my life dead and letting it come to me.
So how to continue this blog without sounding hokey? Life is meant to fulfill us, to give us joy and meaning and not to be tolerated and gotten through. How each of us does this is such a sacred quest. I think the only thing that has ever truly, deeply scared me is being on my death bed and feeling regretful, feeling cheated at this thing called life. Of course living is hard with its share of personal tragedies, but ultimately it should be about wonder. For there are so many wondrous things on this earth and some mind blowing beauty as well. So I wish for us all that we continue with our lives in the spirit of exuberance. And for that feeling of exuberance that is now a part of my life, for that awakening, I owe Freddie Mercury. Or as he was known to his closest friends, Melina.