once in a life time
Two years ago my husband and I committed to a move to Italy for his work. As strange as this may sound to some, it was a tough decision to make ... mostly for me. It wasn't about living in a foreign country; that didn't worry me. I was lucky to spend 7 months in France when I was in my 20's and back in 2000 I spent 6 months in China working for WorldTeach. And I had traveled many other places, mostly on my own during my summer break.
It was mostly about the fact I loved my job ... teaching high school math. I had been at it for 25 years, 24 of those at the same place. I loved "my kids" and looked forward to seeing them every day. So it was hard to think of being without that sense of self and joy and meaning.
What also weighed in was the fact that I had built up a strong presence in the community where I had my art studio - the SoWa Art District in Boston's South End. Going to the studio on weekends, connecting with art lovers and clients on open studio days, having a space to make a mess and hang my work in a virile art community... that I would also miss.
But of course we couldn't pass up this (most likely) once-in-a-lifetime.
In Italy, I transformed one of our bedrooms into a studio and get to paint pretty much whenever I want to. The mountains, the sea, and other cultural hubs are an hour or two away. But it was still really hard losing part of who I was. The teacher part. Especially at the beginning.
Not having a full-time job and more freedom is not all positive. I felt like I lost my sense of purpose and had to redefine who I was. Unstructured time is very difficult to "structure." For me, it's been hard to always feel productive and to not be so hard on myself when I'm not productive ... but then still be a little hard on myself - because I don't want to look back on this time and have any regrets about opportunities not taken. Which I am sure I will feel no matter what.
Having been here in Turin 19 months, I finally feel like I have found my way. I actually have more friends here than I do back home. Seriously.
And I now have a bunch of kids - young and older - that I tutor in math or English. I am getting my artwork out there - had a successful "open apartment" event and exhibit, will be showcased in a couple restaurants, did a collaborative exhibit with a local international school, and have done several commissions.
And I still have my space in Boston with paintings on display that I refresh with new work when I come home to visit.
I have not really taken the time to process how my work has changed in this new setting. I know I'm doing more mixed media pieces and love embedding paper in my encaustic pieces. This took off when I found some vintage Italian wallpaper and wanted to give a painting the feel of an old, peeling wall. Now it has evolved into ripping up and arranging the pieces until they make sense to me. Maybe I like it so much because I LOVED making puzzles as a kid.
One change that was pretty evident at the beginning was how cypress trees began replacing my birches ...
But that didn't last too long ;)