This is a cloth doll that I bought on Main Street when I first moved to Vancouver in 1981. Main Street was not "hip" at the time, but was lined with a mish-mash of odd junk and thrift stores that would get my heart racing with the thrill of the hunt.
I was a rank idiot at the time. I was staying with a cousin and her husband tiI I moved in with my friend Neil, and while dancing alone in their living room like the hippy fool I was, I knocked a ceramic piece off the mantel, smashing it. I put the pieces in a paper bag and left that on the mantel for them to find, whether from embarrassment or because I simply forgot I don't remember. Eventually my cousin mentioned it... the ceramic piece had been an anniversary present with sentimental value. Ouch. I still feel the shame of that youthful boner move.
The doll is nestled in a faded, once-red muslin scarf that I brought home from Morocco for Neil in 1983, and which he wore around his neck for years and years. Possibly until the day he died, but I couldn't say for sure because even the most important details start to disappear when you reach a certain age and your head starts to over-flow with too many memories. I only know that far from being "mere", objects like this scarf hold deep significance—I touched that scarf just now and tears rose to my eyes. Neil is in there. I seem to remember that he liked this doll of mine, too.
I had a pre-teen tell me not long ago that "her mother did important work", and I haven't been able to shake it from my mind. Firstly because I'm pretty sure she didn't come up with that on her own—her mother has likely made it clear that she does important work—and secondly because it begs the question, what is "important work"?
I was a retail clerk the better part of my adult life... not very important.
I putz around my studio and think about producing art more than I produce it... not very important.
The artwork I do produce does not exactly have a global reach... not very important.
I run the office and do the bookkeeping for my husband's house-painting company... not very important.
I should probably be put down... I'm not doing anything important, and I'm not helping anyone in any practical way.
AM I RIGHT?
Yet I usually feel okay about myself... barring those times when I don't. Over-all I feel that I have the right to be here. That I have value, and have something to offer. That I am probably important to some. I feel in fact that continuing to learn to fully understand, accept and openly reveal exactly who I am—in all my unimportant imperfection—can potentially give the green light to those around me to do the same. It might be the most important work I can do.
David M., 2019
Here is a portrait of a lively young fellow I got to hang out with (along with his parents) in Amsterdam last year. It was painted in ink on photo paper, which accounts for both the crazy effects and the impossibility of total control. I usually like having both when painting portraits—lack of control where it "doesn't matter" and I can have fun, but control in the face so that I can pretty much lose my mind attempting the get the most exact likeness I can. That wasn't 100% possible here, which I think was the point in using photo paper—ink is pretty hard to manage on the slippery surface. It forces me out of my obsessiveness… it forces me to let go before I lose my mind.
David M. is an important artist in his own right.