Kari is a new friend here in Bath. We talk, she asks me about my life. And I tell her about whatever progress I’ve made in terms of meeting people here.
And it’s been slow. Slow partly because I do art – which means I spend time alone. But slow also because … I already have friends – friends who live elsewhere. And with the internet, you can make and maintain those links over distance and time.
I was thinking about this – this online connection – how does it compare with “rubbing elbows”? I’ve been slowly making my way through Mary Gabriel’s Ninth Street Women. The book centers around the group of artists in the 1950’s and 60’s who gathered at the Cedars tavern, and then went on to become well-known in the ensuing years.
During those years, they were making works of art, some of which are now considered landmarks. But they were penniless. Their art was NOT selling. Helen Frankenthaler’s “Mountain and Sea” (for which she is most famous now) was priced at $100. No takers.
What they did have was community. Time together talking. Putting up shows. Visiting. Deeply influencing each other.
I have felt that togetherness- most deeply when I was actually working in the same building with people who were also creating art. There is nothing quite like that. The shout-out: “Hey, come look at what I’ve just done!” Fresh with enthusiasm.
I miss it. But I realize that I carry that inside me – and find some of the same fun with artists now who live nowhere close to me. I can’t see their work well online. When and if I do see their pieces in real life, I’m surprised by how much more complex it actually is.
But I treasure my far off friends. Mainly because we’ve spent time at the tavern, so to speak. We’ve been together. Had ups and downs. Been through STUFF.
We’ve rubbed elbows.