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Samantha Fields

How Am I?

Every night just after sunset a rat runs down the powerline that connects my studio to our house. The first time I saw it I yelled, “RAT!....RAT!!!” Now I look forward to seeing him. He is so fast, running along the wire, a tightrope walker…unafraid, no net. If he doesn’t show up I worry a little. I add it to the rest.

Some days, I paint. I’m a painter making paintings that may or may not be seen. A tree falling in the woods? Is it art if nobody sees it? I’m being hyperbolic. I see them, Andre sees them, we count. I keep making but my making is sporadic. It feels like a furlough when I paint, a temporary reprieve where I can fall into familiar rhythms. I need more ultramarine blue, put it on the list.

I’m a professor. Since March, I’ve been on a panic driven curricular triage. Now the term is over, but zoom meetings persist. We must plan for Fall. People on the internet exclaim, “I have so much time now! I am bored! Here is my banana bread!” I am envious. I seem to have so much time and also, no time at all. How is that possible? How is any of this possible?

I have what is called the “disaster mindset”. My paintings are about the end of the world. Wait, no, it’s about the end of us. The world soldiers on. We are not the world. In the past, I carefully painted the people out of my landscapes. Sometimes there would be a hint of us, a house with a light on, an empty road. Then I painted tiny people in exodus…out of my work and out of the world. Now they are back, and the landscape is gone. Crowds of people. Spring breakers. Tiny MAGA hats on tiny empty heads.

We live in earthquake country so we always have well-stocked pantry. It’s never “if”, always “when”. But this isn’t the disaster I was preparing for. It looks different, it looks like us, it is us. I’m adjusting to this new world, and I am thinking about the future. It’s a high-wire act and I’m the rat.

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