Foci is of course the correct Latin plural of focus and I like how it sounds to say, "The 5 Foci." The list is a prototype for how I might organize the rest of my life. The particular items can always be changed, but I feel that 5 is a reasonable number of major priorities to keep in mind. Missing from this list, but implied, is physical health. None of the following can be produced without maintaining the factory that makes it all happen. Physical health was considered for one of the five but at the moment it operates sufficiently without requiring a lot of attention. Plus I always notice that as mood elevates (Number 2), diet and exercise improve as well.
Current 5 areas to direct my energies:
The list was made to stand alone. The explanations below may be of interest, but the addition of more words diminishes the power contained in the list as-is. (Incidentally that view of the limitation of words is also why I make my greatest statements visually.)
1. Political movements can change.
2. Make something positive from my struggle for mental health.
3. I make abstract paintings that I seek to share more widely.
4. Improve my connections with others.
5. I need to make an income.
An interesting thing about this list is that it's not very good writing. Items in a series are best phrased in parallel. You do not say, "She is making the most of social isolation by running, to sing, and cooks." My Foci 4 is a command, but 5 does not say: "Make money!" I am pointing this out, because prior to sharing publicly I considered rephrasing the list for the sake of good writing. I quickly grasped that in this case, the phrasings were significant.
1 is a global statement. It is not telling me a specific thing for me to do to be involved in that change. At the time when I wrote number one—and why it was the first thing I thought to list—was to give myself some hope that change is within the realm of possibility. We are living in such a dispiriting time to be an American. I know that I would like a portion of what I do to forever be directed towards political change in our world. To that end I have recently written a Voter's Guide to our upcoming primary that was immediately adopted by Color Jax Blue, a movement for political change undertaken by many local Black artists. We all have our contributions to make. At this time mine was to do research and write in isolation, and I'm very pleased that my work might have an impact beyond my immediate circle of friends. [I originally wrote my 5 Foci on May 2, 2020, well into the pandemic but prior to the murder of George Floyd on video that refocused even more attention on the need for political change.]
2 & 4 are phrased as urgings to myself, exhortations to take actions that strongly impact my mental state.
2: The effort I have spent struggling to attain comfort with my own thoughts and emotions feels more valuable when I find ways to share it. I think of younger me, looking for connection or hope. I feel a sense of purpose if I can make something positive out of what I have usually seen as suffering and wasted years. Current work in this focus area includes much of what I have been sharing in writing, and in recordings (audio and video). Once I am settled in after the studio move, I would like to devote a portion of time to a long-term writing project.
3, making and sharing abstract paintings, is being accomplished at the moment through Rart Bouquets, small original art sent to any mailing address on Earth for $30. I moved my most recent show, Humanism, online. I anticipate offering video workshops. I am also exploring connections in Miami, where I hope to show my large-scale paintings some day soon. I phrased Focus 3 as a general statement of purpose, a reaffirmation of my career. I do not think of myself as “an artist” so much as specifically a painter, an abstract painter, and an abstract expressionist painter. Other movements within art are of interest to me the same as they are to anyone. The work I choose to make and share is a product of my mental philosophy more than it is a desire to put decorative objects into the world. Nor do I perceive it as part of a dialogue with current thinking in art. My path —studying psychology, struggling with mental wellness, making this art, improving my mental health, now sharing that joy with others—is simple.
4: How I relate to others can affect my mood for good or ill every day. Phrasing 4 as a command acknowledges that this one is an immediate to-do item. If I had followed the structure of 1 & 3—"Connections with others improve my mental state" or some such—the statement would have less force. Many things can distract me from accomplishing this goal, including overconsumption of entertainment or feeling insecure and withdrawn. And I think we have all experienced times when reaching out to others drains us instead of fills us up. I felt I needed to put this basic element of life on a list of priorities because it does not just come easily to me. All the other goals I have discussed so far interrelate with this one. Writing this, for example, combines 2, 3, and 4. Most days I share what I am doing on Instagram, and usually what I am doing involves Focus 1, 2, or 3. Besides social media (something it’s good to step away from regularly) I’m also making more individual contact with others I care about, like my sister and her family, and friends who live all over the U.S. During 2020 I have rediscovered the joy of sending mail.
5: Self explanatory. Making a living gets its own entry because I have to keep in mind that it is a separate challenge from everything else. If I manage it as a consequence of doing 1-4, that is phenomenal but in no way guaranteed. Right now I am willing to accept some financial deprivation in exchange for investing in my lifelong goals, but I am requiring myself to make frequent reassessments. There are a series of steps I can take to reintroduce greater solvency. That might be the most un-Rob sentence I’ve ever written! What I mean by steps is that, rather than going right back into a full-time job that negatively impacts my other goals, I can first take in another roommate, and reassess. Then I can look to do freelance, or part-time work, and reassess. For now, though, I’m cutting expenses, downsizing and selling furniture, while using most of my time setting up a working home studio and marketing my art online. There have been moments when making a living solely based in art appears within reach!
Thank you for the confidence you have shown in me. It really helps to know that friends are rooting for me! Donations are accepted and will put you on my physical mailing list of Rart surprises.
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