Every once in a while, something really big comes along that you hope will be an incredible experience – and it not only meets your expectations, but so far exceeds them that you have to pinch yourself to see if you were dreaming. Last Friday, I finally got the courage to tour an artist co-op/art lab about an hour from where I live. I’ve been putting this off for probably 6 months, just feeling too fragile and intimidated by the idea of committing to working in an environment with other artists so soon after losing my fiancé. And honestly, I have no clue if I’ll be ready right now either… with the one-year mark of his death just a few weeks away, there’s no way to know how the next few months are going to be. But last week, it seems something finally told me it was time to take this chance.
On Friday morning, I found myself driving through the Texas hill country, my whole body electric with that incredible mix of excitement and fear when you take a chance on your dreams. I had a few moments of overwhelm knowing that it was the exact feeling Drew must have had when he finished flight school, and on the drive to every interview for a flying job… that feeling of “this could be IT!” It was really something else to connect to him in that way. Oddly enough, I was completely convinced that this place was exactly the place I needed to be – even before getting there or knowing too much about it at all. And I was right.
The tour of the co-op left me with stars in my eyes. The main house – a wonderfully rustic cabin – was full of paintings and sculptures. Absolutely stunning art around every corner. The primary workshop was metal framed and had a lift for doing large-scale sculptures. Welding equipment, wood working equipment, a painting studio and a jewelry studio, and a few rustic residences for artists or visitors to stay in. All of this was housed on a 5 acre ranch in the gorgeous hill country west of Austin, Tx. I’m sure you can tell by now that I was so fully and completely in my element from the moment I stepped on the property.
The woman who runs the art lab graciously shared stories of some of her own personal art. She lost her son about six years ago, and creativity became a crucial part of her healing process – much as it has for me. She creates stunning abstract metal wall pieces – each with a very personal meaning to her. To have connected so much to the art and the place already was amazing – but then to have this added bond to someone through deep loss and to see how she has used art in her own way to deal with that loss… I could feel nothing less than certain that it was no accident I found this place – but that its where I’m supposed to be.
She and I talked for some time about my art as well, and she was wonderfully honest but kind in her critique. In just a short afternoon together with this woman, I found some of my views about art completely turned upside down in a really great way. She felt my photographs were very beautiful, but that there is much further I need to take my art if I want to be truly successful. I agreed… and told her that is exactly why I was there. To learn, to be challenged, to have a mentor that can help me on my journey to reach my greatest potential as an artist. She is very interested to work with and help me on that journey, and even offered to introduce me to a well-known artist she works with for some painting lessons. It’s all still just too good to be true.
She asked me at one point where I want to go with my art. I said, “I don’t know, I just want to go”. And that’s really all I know, truthfully, I just want to go and to enjoy the ride while I’m on it. So I’ve decided for certain that I will be working with her out at the art lab – starting very soon. It’s exciting and scary and sad all at the same time. I owe all of this to my fiancé – because I’d have never gained the confidence in myself that I have today if it weren’t for him believing in me so fiercely… and I wouldn’t even be living near this place if it weren’t for him and the support of his family. It’s still going to be a difficult journey without him… but that would be the case no matter what, so I might as well go for gold. Here’s to trying something new.
All photo credits go to Fe29/The Art Lab