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.
I don’t know how other artists create-I think about creation all of the time because it mesmerizes me. I used to be a potter and I can’t think of any way better to learn about how to create than sitting at a potter’s wheel with a very malleable substance such as clay. The thing about clay is that it changes while you are working with it. Touch is the most important sense-you begin to see with your fingers, to understand what it wants. It is a partner to be danced with, to be coaxed, to improvise with. As a result spontaneity is the key.
Making pottery for some reason naturally morphed into making collage. Not digital collage, but with photos I take and print on my printer and then alter. Paper is very visceral in its texture, very alive. It breathes and changes, it yellows with age. It feels alive. And, most importantly for me, it can be wet and wiped creating even more texture using pigment ink, pastel and watercolor. What I learned from making pottery I have applied to making collage-create spontaneously by taking a visual cue and feel from what you have just done, and then later refine. But the real take away is that creating is not a static process: it is ever evolving-evolving in the collage itself, evolving second by second or planting a seed to be taken into the next one. Creation is like nature: it is nature. It must be imaginative and aware of a process that goes from nothing to something-like a flower.
So why Randomly Speaking? One day I decided to use a lot of random bits of photos that were left out of other collages. But this time where the pieces went wasn’t planned. I mixed them all up in a box face down so I didn’t have a say in the matter as to where they “should” go. The only rule I had was a predetermined pattern of how I would glue them onto my wood base. The result was Country Bloom. Of course once I had the base layer I altered it adding in figures which I made by using stamps. The thing I kept wondering is how could such a random process create something so harmonious? The pieces seemed to be placed just right. I added to them, but what came through was exactly what should have-a randomness that I couldn’t have consciously created. Creation grows and I am still as stumped by it, though in constant wonder. It makes me want to delve deeper, deeper into intuition, into the feel of the thing, deeper into who we are with this conscious drive to create.
In July on a very humid, hot day I was sitting on my bed when I was slapped by a freight train of a revelation. As revelations are wont to do it hit me out of nowhere. I wasn’t looking for it or even thinking about it but slam me it did. I’m a survivor in spite of my delicacy and fragility. I have survived sometimes in spite of myself and when I didn’t even care if I did or not. Being a survivor means no longer being a victim and I had to adjust myself to that and at 62 years old at that. No longer was I living at the whim of others, no longer did I have my future dictated by some unknown person telling me if my art was good enough to be in their show.
I had been pondering my situation long and hard regarding making a living off my art and how impossible that seemed, that the gallery circuit was a dead end or worse even a huge circle where I went around and around with no defining point. Don’t get me wrong. I have had some success along the way having my collages accepted for shows and other things, but essentially I was dependent on another person’s judgment about the worth of my work, about the worth of myself as a creator and human being.
For a while I had this gnawing feeling that I was missing some very important thing. The times are changing when it comes to artists and galleries. It is 2020 and there has to be a new way of thinking about gallery space and what a gallery is, and about the fact that the artist is a victim of who is rejecting your work. The pandemic has drastically altered our idea of space and how art is bought and sold. So it was crazy to me that one day while I was on Facebook an add about Art Storefronts appeared on my feed. Kismet. I delved in. They were saying all of the things that I had just been thinking…stuff about empowerment that could sound very hokey and trivial except it isn’t. Artists need to take as much control over their work and future as possible. After very careful thought and back and forth going over the pros and cons I became an Art Storefronts member. I have just finished my website and now go onto the really hard part…marketing. For it really is all in the marketing and that scares me. But what scares me the most is where I would be without this platform because it is amazing. And just as crucial is their unbelievable customer support. They get it. I have never met a group of people more eager to help and their kindness and encouragement has been a solid support during the times building my site when I didn’t have a clue.
So all of this ramble to say that I have taken the first step toward that ikky sounding word empowerment, but really there isn’t a better word that I can come up with because the power part of it, the being dependent only on myself for selling my art is pretty damned liberating. If I fail to sell my art it is on me, and while that can cause my stomach to drop I wouldn’t have it any other way.